TOPEKA (KSNT) – Saturday’s killing of four-year-old Lawrencia Perez-Belair marked Topeka’s 30th murder in 2023. The year is now tied with 2017 for the most murders seen in a single year since record keeping begain.
After two years of declining murder numbers, Craig McCullah, a candidate in November’s election for Topeka’s District 2 City Council seat, worries this recent spike makes the city seem less and less safe.
“Let’s call an apple an apple, alright,” McCullah said. “Topeka, right now with 30 homicides, is not exactly the safest place in the country, alright. All cities deal with crime, but for Topeka to have such a concentrated amount is shameful. It’s a direct result of us not putting public safety as the highest priority from our city government, and we have to change it.”
So how does the city change the trend? McCullah said it all starts with policing.
“I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all to reduce crime. However, I do know it starts with community policing,” McCullah said. “We’ve got to get more officers. We got to get people doing presence patrols in our neighborhoods and get officers out on the street.”
Incumbent District 2 Topeka City Councilwoman Christina Valdivia-Alcala said she believes city leaders need to flush out deep-rooted problems in the community.
“Are there issues with mental health? Are there issues with unsecured weapons? Are there issues of addictions? What is the poverty that some of these folks may be steeped in? Where are they reaching out and how are they not, or not, maybe they are or are not being met,” Valdivia-Alcala said.
In light of this weekend’s murder of a four-year-oldPerez-Belair, and the recent killing of five-year-old Zoey Felix, Valdivia-Alcala said Topeka needs to take a much closer look into the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
“I am putting in queries with the police department so I can look, so we can look as a council, at a specific timeline of events for any of these calls that went to DCF to make sure our protocols are in place,” Valdivia-Alcala said.
27 News will continue to keep you up to date with how the city and others respond and give you the most up-to-date information when it’s available.