More than 250 arrested in Shawnee County as joint police operation targets violent crime

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TOPEKA — An operation by federal, state and local law enforcement to reduce drug-related crime in Topeka has led to more than 250 arrests and the seizure of 24 firearms, nearly 19 kilograms of illegal drugs and $25,000 in cash.

Dubbed Operation Frontier Justice, the 10-day joint effort carried out in mid-March targeted violent fugitives and gang members. Officials at a news conference Monday announcing the results of the operation said it was carried out in response to rising violent crime rates in the area between 2014 and 2019.


Feuds between Topeka-area gangs have grown deadlier in recent years and these gangs have begun targeting area foster children for recruitment, according to reporting by the Topeka Capital-Journal.

To curb the violence, a cohort of law enforcement agencies led by the U.S. Marshals Service carried out Operation Frontier Justice from March 5 to 14.

“These are not street sweeps or warrant roundups. These are targeted operations, targeting organized crime and gangs,” said Ron Miller, U.S. Marshal for the District of Kansas. “Without those three coequal branches of government funding, authorizing and carrying out the operation, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it might be if it was just a local police department or law enforcement agency that was executing arrests on warrants.”

Miller was joined by federal legislators, local law enforcement officials and Shawnee County legal authorities to share details of the operation. Of the 258 arrests made, 138 were felony arrests, officials said.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, doubled down in appreciation for entities involved including the Topeka Police Department, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Highway Patrol, FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency.

Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran praised the collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement to curtail gang and violent crime in Topeka, Monday, March 29, 2021.

“As a result, a significant number of guns, drugs, narcotics, and criminals removed from the streets of Shawnee County,” Moran said before looking to the future. “How can we help further to combat the increasing amount of crime that’s occurring in Kansas? … It’s true across our state. This is not just an urban issue.”

Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. Col. Jason De Vore said eight troopers and the KHP aircraft unit all participated in active patrols of established enforcement zones for the operation. Troopers conducted high volume traffic stops as well to disrupt and remove illegal contraband, weapons and other illicit items from the streets.

Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill said the operation was critical in stopping current crime and would spark future investigations.

“Consider this a successful operation, but more importantly, this operation didn’t end when the due date was over,” Hill said. “I expect the impact of this operation will be felt here in Shawnee County and help with actually fighting crime throughout our community.”

Topeka interim Police Chief Bryan Wheeles said the operation proved critical amid a time when resources are in short supply.

“When I took over, the first priority that I identified was to reduce crime in the capital city and this multi-agency collaboration dovetails into that premise,” Wheeles said. “I’m grateful to all the leaders of all the agencies because I know the challenges of resources right now and I’m very humbled and honored that they use those resources in this collaborative effort in my city.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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