Overall Crime Down; Youth Sex Crimes More Prevalent

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Police say property and violent crime is down in Topeka compared to last year.

Topeka's quarterly crime update was released Wednesday afternoon, and revealed, however, that more work is needed to crack down on newer problems facing the city.

According to the Topeka Police Department, youth sex crimes are more prevalent in Topeka now than in previous years.

"It's either reported more or it's actually more prevalent and we're finding out about it," Captain Jerry Stanley said at the crime update meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The Criminal Investigations Division busted an underage prostitution ring in June. A group of teenage girls aged 15 to 17, who were mostly runaways, were rounded up and advertised on a website as escorts. Their pimps were caught by local and federal agencies while dropping the girls off at a set-up location. These men are 21 and 23 years old with previous records and warrants.

"Not sure where as a society we are when we have people running escort services on websites and the ringleaders of the business are 21 and 23," Chief of Police Ron Miller said. "And the 23-year-old already violated parole and the 21-year-old got a stolen gun. There's plenty of work to be done."

It doesn't stop there.

"We have cases where 12 and 13-year-olds unfortunately have been taken across state lines from the Kansas City area and brought back for these types of enterprises," Stanley said.

Stanley and Miller say the good news is that the partnership with school resource officers is stronger.

One 15-year-old girl in a USD 501 high school reported to her SRO that she had been raped by 28-year-old Esaul Ramirez Fernandez. He'd been luring kids to his home with alcohol, sometimes convincing them to skip school. Becauset the girl reported it, officials were able to quickly convict him in June.

Fernandez was convicted of rape in February and now awaits sentencing in August.

Chief Ron Miller said the vast majority of the people in the community are not criminals.

"Ninety-five percent aren't criminals, but there are 5 percent who do a lot of damage."

The problem is catching those five percent.

Despite a police department short 45 officers, Miller said property and violent crime is down since this time last year.

While there have been four more murders during January to June 2013 compared to one during the same months of 2012, violent crimes are down 115 incidents this year. That includes rape, robbery to a business, robbery to an individual and aggravated assault/battery.

Miller said historically over the past 20 years Topeka has averaged 12 to 14 homicides per year. As of July, five homicides have happened so far.

"At this rate we'll be below average this year."

Rape is down eleven, with 13 reported rapes in 2013, and 24 in 2012.

Property crime covers more categories and "[plagues] the city" more than violent crime does, but that is down 199 incidents from January to June 2013 compared to those same months in 2012.

Shoplifting is the category with the highest numbers in city property crime, followed by burglary to a business. Six-hundred forty-nine shoplifting incidents occurred in 2013, compared to 642 in 2012. Business burlgary is down as well, with 59 incidents compared to 83 in 2012. Vehicle break-ins and theft inside buildings follows in incidents with numbers in the high 400s.

Major Peggy Fox patrols the west division of the city where shoplifting is the major problem due to the different quality of life than the east. Large stores such as Walmart and JC Penney are the most targeted. Officers team up with security at those stores and have been able to crack-down. The Walmart on 37th street sees the most shoplifting, with 102 incidents from January to June 2013.

Shoplifters steal mostly DVDs, clothes and health/beauty products, likely to re-sell them.

Major Fox's division have been able to arrest repeat shoplifters. If someone is caught three times shoplifting, they will be hit with an Aggravated Burglary charge.

Fox also outlined the most hazardous accident locations calculated by each shift :

2100 Block Wanamaker
29th and Gage
17th and Topeka Blvd
6th and California
2400 Block Rochester

The Special Operations Division oversees the K-9 unit, Narcotics, Violent Crimes, Bike Unit, school resource officers, Moto Unit, Volunteer Division and Code Enforcement.

Code Enforcement has had a historic number of complaints and calls this quarter, and according to Major Mike Haugen, have answered 98% of those calls within 48 hours. There have been 1,849 calls about weed.

Miller said the department's quarterly updates are a barometer for how police are doing. He said according to civilians, 81% of police responded to calls in a timely manner, but the number isn't high enough.

He also said the department keeps in mind that actual crime is probably higher than what is reported.