We believe this is a pivotal time in our community. Our city is making giant leaps forward. Collaboration and public/private partnerships are increasing. New companies are coming to town and bringing jobs and economic growth. Because of the strong leadership of many wonderful Topekans, the NOTO Arts District is booming and large events are coming to our newly renovated downtown – all generating more revenue and growing the local economy and tax base. We are increasing green space in this community and making it more bicycle-friendly – all efforts that will help to recruit and retain the next generation of families and leaders and help those we serve at the Mission.
Yet, in spite of that growth, we see a “sharp up-tick in violent crimes” locally in Topeka and statewide in Kansas, as reported in an article in the Topeka Capital Journal on October 4, 2017. The article goes on to say the number of homicides reported statewide increased by 46.5 percent between 2014 and 2016; putting it at the highest level since 2000, according to the KBI. The overall violent crime rate climbed by 15.6 percent with increases in rape, robbery and aggravated assault/battery.
At the same time, the number of agents the KBI staffs has dwindled since 2009, leaving agents overtaxed and forcing the department to shell out overtime pay to try to meet its demands, an official said. “We currently have twice as many active, open homicides as we do people to investigate them,” KBI executive officer Katie Whisman said. “That’s a threat.”
In a later article dated November 27, 2017, The Topeka Capital Journal reported that a homicide that day took Topeka to the all-time high homicide count of twenty-nine. The previous high, which occurred in 1994, was twenty-eight.
As Topeka Rescue Mission Ministries employees who interact with so many different entities in Topeka and people from EVERY neighborhood in town, we see the impact of these climbing violent crime numbers every day in the neighborhoods where we work and live. Crime and drug use is increasing. More and more people are in survival mode. Their kids are hungry and many don’t know what to do and they are turning to us for answers. We know that anyone in survival mode is much more at risk of being recruited into human trafficking, gangs and the selling of drugs because of their vulnerability. They simply become less risk averse and more desperate.
We also know human trafficking is on the rise. The sex trade, illegal drugs and illegal selling of arms are the three most pervasive and profitable criminal enterprise in the world in their ability to generate revenue for unscrupulous people who prey on the weaknesses of others. We have discovered that human trafficking, poverty, and homelessness are closely connected. When a person doesn’t have a stable, safe place to live, she is much more easily recruited to criminal activity.
Our hearts hurt for every victim and person in survival mode who comes to us for help – that chance to feed, encourage and help them get a new start may be the only Jesus they ever see. We’re also grateful for every one of our collaborative partners, supporters, volunteers and staff – together, we’re making a real difference. Law enforcement, elected officials, churches, many different non-profits, and our city and state teams – all are coming together to fight this war on sex slavery.
Ed Klumpp, Chief of Police-retired, Topeka Police Department and a representative for the Kansas Sheriff’s Association said, “…some investigations anymore – cybercrimes, human trafficking, the child pornography cases – are cases where you need to have expertise in a particular topic area to be effective in your investigation,” He went on to say the KBI’s declining ability to assist with investigations does raise a concern.
At Topeka Rescue Mission Ministries, we believe a stable community is a safe community. We believe stable communities reduce drug crime, human trafficking, gang activity and the resulting homicide rate. We are doing everything we can to help stabilize this community. As individual believers and “called out ones”, we need to mobilize, participate in the work God is calling us to and take back our neighborhoods and this community. We need to do more.
We see this neighborhood stabilization model working in Hi-Crest, through NET Reach efforts, in collaboration with many valuable partners, mentors, and some economic investment and infrastructure improvements like new streets. We also see Career Readiness and jobs programs beginning to work in the neighborhood. People are going back to work and in better-paying jobs that they enjoy. There is a real sense of community growing in Hi-Crest, which has been labeled as one of the intensive care at-risk neighborhoods in our city. Crime in this immediate area is down, as a result of the great work being done there over the last four years.
In a recent Topeka Capital Journal article titled, “Rental costs outpace wages in Topeka, Kansas,” Sophie George, CEO of the Topeka Housing Authority, shared the she is familiar with this problem. She said “THA has a waiting list close to 2,000 for Section 8 housing vouchers and 800 more are waiting for a spot in a public housing unit.” At TRM Ministries, we believe we need more affordable housing for all income levels in Topeka to reduce homelessness. Until we address violent crime and drug problems, lack of affordable housing and help families and communities to stabilize, we’re concerned we will continue to see the homicide rate still be a concern for all.
If God is nudging your heart to get involved, please do it – please answer the call. It takes resources and it takes an army of people to win this war on poverty. This war needs you and your help! TRM Ministries and many collaborative partners are poised to make more of a difference if we all fight TOGETHER.
We have the greatest history book and how-to manual ever written. The Bible tells us that we aren’t on a cruise ship – this is a battleground. Ephesians 6:12-13 tells us, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” 2018 is time to take truth, righteousness, peace, faith and God’s love into this war for Topeka and more importantly, for hearts eternally.
We believe a stable community is a safe community. By tolerating an increasing homicide rate, human trafficking, and poverty in our city and state, we are failing to address a ticking time bomb. Every day, we see more and more reasons why these numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone – many of our neighbors are hungry, homeless and feel hopeless. Wherever you are in life right now, you have the ability to help with something in this effort by praying, giving and volunteering. This will impact all of us. WE ARE PLAYING FOR KEEPS. WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US.