'Safe Streets' Focuses On Hi-Crest Neighborhood

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Ashton Smith just moved into the Highland Crest Neighborhood, but she says she already feels like nobody cares about it.

"I feel like they don't give this neighborhood enough attention," she told 13 News.

That's about to change.

"In 2013 the coalition is gonna be focusing on the High Crest neighborhood," Sally Zellers, Director of Safe Streets Coalition, said.

The Safe Streets Coalition held its first meeting of this year at the old Avondale East Elementary School to demonstrate their commitment to the Highland Crest community.

At last month's crime strategy briefing by the Topeka Police Department, chief Ron Miller explained why that focus is sorely needed.

"High Crest has been identified as an area where there are about 5700 residents [and] there are a number of citizens who live below the poverty line. 92 percent of children in area below poverty line," he said.

Those numbers led city planners to label Hi-Crest a neighborhood in "intensive care."

Now Safe Streets volunteers, community leaders, police and neighbors are joining forces to change that diagnosis.

"What we're actually starting to look at is maybe family mentoring, really having some one on one support," Zellers cited as one example.

From community meals and camps for kids, to an after school program, Safe Streets wants to address the issues holistically by focusing on families and their environments..
City leaders have secured $1.5 million in federal and city grants to help improve homes and sidewalks.

Ashton Smith says she's looking forward to seeing more High Crest kids come out and play.

"Makes me proud actually," Smith said, "About time somebody's doing something."

Safe Streets will continue to hold its monthly meetings at Avondale East Elementary on the first Wednesday of each month.