TOPEKA (KSNT) – Topeka Police Chief Bryan Wheeles weighed in on Topeka’s growing homicide rate following the city’s most recent killing. 

The record for the most killings Topeka has seen in a single year is 30 set back in 2017. However, Monday’s alleged murder of 5-year-old Zoey Felix marks the city’s 26th killing of 2023. 

“We’re working hard in the streets every day and every night to continue to make this a safe city, and these things shock us all,” Wheeles said. “We’re human beings. We’re people and they have a deep impact on us. We’re all sad today. It’s just the easy way to say it. But I’m also very proud of the work we do here at the police department.” 

This death of a child has put renewed urgency on the police department to solve these murders. Wheeles said ‘concerned’ is a good word to describe things right now.

Wheeles told 27 News his officers are working around the clock to solve this murder as quickly as possible, which he said is how they approach any crime. However, this year’s 26 killings have quickly surpassed the 18 killings recorded through the entirety of 2022.

“I am very concerned about the level of homicides because we are coming off of two years where we had kind bucked the national trend and been down,” Wheeles said. “And that was a product of the tremendous work of the brave men and women of the police department out on the streets, and I was very proud of that. I am concerned about this, but we have to continue to keep working.”  

According to Wheeles, the police force is addressing the underlying issues that lead to these homicides. He said the most common factor contributing to the homicide rate is gun violence. Topeka police take proactive measures to prevent gun violence each year, including seizing a large number of guns. 

Wheeles also said the department sees other patterns contributing to homicide rates, like the decisions individuals make, the people they surround themselves with or anything else that puts them at a higher risk of being victimized.

Wheeles calls on the public to be aware of its surroundings and report any suspicious activity to the police when possible.