Topeka, Kan. – Washburn University announced today that it is joining with the City of Topeka and Topeka JUMP (Justice, Unity and Ministry Project) to explore a strategy designed to improve community safety and reduce violence.
“We have worked hard to build and maintain a safe environment on our campus and we would like to offer our significant expertise to the effort underway by the City and Topeka JUMP. Together, they are exploring an approach to reducing violence already in use in dozens of cities – both large and small,” said Washburn University President Jerry Farley.
Washburn’s decision was prompted in part by the recent loss of a Washburn student athlete in an off-campus incident.
“While the death of any student is a tragedy, this particular loss to an incident of senseless violence was a particular blow to the campus and we felt a need to respond,” Farley said.
The City of Topeka and Topeka JUMP – a community coalition of 23 churches -- have agreed to explore an approach to reducing violence developed by the National Network for Safe Communities at New York’s John Jay College. The approach – known as Group Violence Intervention -- combines the best of law enforcement and community-driven approaches to improve public safety, minimize arrests and incarceration and foster police-community reconciliation.
“Cities that have embraced this approach have seen decreases in violence of 30 and 40 percent,” said Topeka City Manager Brent Trout. “As a city, we’re determined to take a pro-active approach in reducing violence. Group Violence Intervention has produced significant results in other communities and we think this may be the right choice for Topeka in our continued efforts to reduce violence and increase safety in our city.”
“We are pleased to have Washburn as one of the partners in this effort,” he said. “I think that Washburn’s expertise through its Criminal Justice and Social Work programs along with Washburn’s particular strength in research and evaluation can be critical to our success.”
Shanae Holman, lead organizer for Topeka JUMP welcomed the news that Washburn University has decided to become an active participant in the effort.
“We are thrilled to have Washburn University join us in this important work along with other community groups such as the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice,” said Holman. “We have many individuals from Washburn who have supported our justice efforts but we are pleased that the university itself is joining in support of this area of focus.”
With the help of Washburn University, Holman hopes that the effort at reducing violence can move much more quickly.
“We are ready to move forward to improve safety and security throughout Topeka and we are optimistic that we have found an approach that will work for us,” she said. “The expertise that Washburn is adding to this effort should help us find the right way to make this effective in Topeka.”
In addition to joining the current effort with Topeka JUMP, Washburn and the City of Topeka are creating a campus/community task force to explore additional approaches along with ways to enhance the continuing cooperation with the city and those in the neighborhood surrounding the campus.
“If we are going to be successful in the long run, we need to continue to work together with all of our partners in the community as well as the City of Topeka,” Farley said, “but we need an intensive review right now.”
The task force – which will involve representatives from Washburn, the city and community leaders – will be charged with examining the best ways to move forward and will be expected to produce specific recommendations in 60 days.