TOPEKA, Kan. — Topeka police say a violent crime unit that was formed in May after a spate of shootings and homicides in the city is working but officers still need the public’s help to reduce gang violence.

City officials have declined to release many details about the unit, citing a need to protect the officers and the integrity of their investigations. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/2cLpGR2 ) city staff declined to release more than 240 pages of information about the unit to the media after a City Council briefing Thursday.

During eight days in mid-May, gang-related shootings left two dead and four injured in Topeka. After that, the violent crime unit partnered with state and federal agencies including the U.S. and Shawnee County district attorney’s offices, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and state police.

Since it formed, the unit has arrested 236 suspects, seized more than 6 pounds of marijuana, 3 pounds of meth and 30 guns, including assault weapons. It also has seized about $60,000 in cash and 2.25 grams of heroin. Those statistics do not include investigations unrelated to gang activity.

Maj. Darin Scott told the City Council Thursday that the heroin is of particular interest because the drug is causing problems in other parts of the country and is slowly coming to the Midwest.

Police have not said how large the unit is or if the initiative is in addition to regular police work. Scott said that’s because the people who are being sought by police don’t need to know that officers are looking for them.

Sgt. Ruben Salamanca said gangs are responsible for nearly all the violence, either directly or indirectly. The city has 12 active gangs, which is similar to national trends.

Topeka’s gangs mostly attract teenage boys who don’t have solid family structures and they find support, protection and money in the gangs. Salamanca said parents, relatives and community organizations need to take an active role in making gangs seem less alluring.

As the violent crime initiative continues, police are hopeful residents will provide tips and discuss concerns about gang activity.

Scott said the goal is to redirect people away from gang involvement, rather than waiting until they have been arrested.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com