By Thomas Schmidt, 13 WIBW
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – A record 30 homicides in Topeka in 2017 sparked conversations about reducing crime. It led District Attorney Mike Kagay to implement Strategies Against Violence Everywhere Program, also know as SAVE.
“We’re making a difference everyday in the lives of these kids and their families,” said Kagay. “We’re giving them the opportunity to make the right choices, to make healthy choices, productive choices which will keep them on the right path and will pay dividends on their lives and in their communities for years to come.”
But Topeka Justice Unity and Ministry Project, or JUMP, says it’s not enough.
“We love that idea,” said Carole Denton with Topeka JUMP. “We’re always in favor of things that are going to help youth get on the right track, but what our research has shown is that the majority of acts of violence, and especially of killings, happen between adults and right now there is a program that has been found to be effective which is group violence intervention.”
Jump launched an email campaign with over 50 emails being sent to WIBW 13 News alone this week calling out Kagay who they say promised to implement Group Violence Intervention.
The approach uses law enforcement, social service providers and a community moral voice all working together to identify and discourage violent crime. Save builds strong police-community relationships focused on youth where Kagay feels it will have the most impact.
“I’ve been at this for long enough to know that when I go up to court and I’m talking to someone whose even in their mid 20s and they’ve been involved in this activity and this life,” said Kagay, “they want nothing to do with us. So, in a scenario where you have limited resources and you need to build a program, we’re going to do it the right way. We’re going to do it the way that makes the most sense and is the most effective. So that’s what we’ve done. We’re focusing on kids.”
Harry Christian is Co-Chair of Topeka JUMP and says the violent crime must come to end soon.
“I just had a shooting just last Monday right across from Asberry Mount Olive,” said Harry. “We don’t see any work being done, that’s the issue. We don’t see any work being done on group intervention violence. Where is GVI been implemented to where we can stop the killings. I want to invest in youth, but I also want to stop the killings in the city.”
Kagay says that a new program takes time to build.
“A new program takes time to build. We have been doing this step by step,” said Kagay. “We rely upon volunteers, we rely upon the goodwill of community stakeholders and partners and other agencies that are not obliged to participate in the program just like it takes time to build those relationships.”
In either case, both parties involved respect each others intentions and want what’s best for Topeka.
“We feel like that is the best thing for Topeka, to help our neighbors,” said Denton. “We want the violence to stop.”
So far, the SAVE program has helped 40 kids in Shawnee County.
See original story here.