TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Gun violence is on the rise in Topeka and community leaders are looking at new ways to bring it down. Some experts say in some instances, curing the problem is as simple as offering a helping hand.
“Isn’t it amazing how one or two people can make a difference in your city?” said Paul David Smith who works for the city of Chicago.
He believes it only takes those few people to turn things around for Topeka.
“Communities can come together and prioritize the individuals who are most at risk of being shot or most at risk of being shooters,” Smith added.
As Director of Violence Reduction Strategy, he uses one-on-one work to help those who are at risk. Chief Bill Cochran says most violent crimes in Topeka have been drug-related.
“The hopes are that we make an impact on the drug issues in the aspect that you don’t need to sell drugs maybe to provide for your family or whatever. But with this program we have the resources available for you through the right way. Through a peaceful way to make you a productive citizen,” Cochran said.
Topeka has had 41 shootings so far this year, that's compared to 20 at this time in 2018 and 2017.
“There are not dangerous communities. There are a very few dangerous people in those communities who make us feel like we’re in dangerous communities,” Smith explained.
Topekans worried about the violence say they are ready to help.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily dangerous, but I think we have a lot of problems with violence, and I’d like to see us work on those,” said Sara Anderson.
“If we can give people hope, not only hope but love. Let them know that our community loves ya from the police officers to the pastors to the teachers to all the community leaders that we all can come together and say hey, we can help you,” Pastor Carl Frazier said with passion.
Smith says mentoring and outreach programs will be key. He added change won’t happen overnight, but if the community keeps working at it, it will work.