Ryan Yarrell, the first executive director of One Congregation One Precinct (OneCOP) Indianapolis, helped announce the organization’s partnership with AT&T during a press conference May 14. Funding from AT&T will help OneCOP create partnerships between religious organizations and the police to help reduce violence. (Photo/Ben Lashar)

Instead of simply talking about violent crime in the city, AT&T employees decided to be part of the solution by bringing the Believe initiative to Indianapolis.

The creation of Believe Indy was announced during a press conference May 14.

Believe Indy identifies organizations effective in combating crime and provides money, technology and volunteers. The program has an initial budget of $275,000.

“We may be new to this challenge, but we will proudly join the dozens and dozens of neighborhood, civic and government organizations that have been making a positive difference in our city for decades,” AT&T Indiana President Bill Soards said. 

Believe Indy’s initial project is helping establish an Indianapolis chapter of One Congregation One Precinct (OneCOP), a nonprofit that connects local law enforcement with religious organizations to build better relationships between the police and community as a way to combat violent crime.

“The men and women of [Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department] work every day to strengthen relationships with neighborhood and community residents, and the OneCOP and Believe Indy Initiatives provide IMPD with yet another opportunity of deepening those relationships,” IMPD Deputy Chief Josh Barker said.

The financial donations from Believe Indy allowed OneCOP to create an office in Indianapolis and hire an executive director. OneCOP Indianapolis officially launched three weeks ago, and since then over 200 local religious organizations signed up to partner with the organization. OneCOP will introduce these religious organizations to their local beat cops, creating the groundwork for relationships to form.

“Thanks to AT&T, Indianapolis is the first stop in the national implementation of this unprecedented effort to connect beat-level law enforcement professionals directly with the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect,” Rev. Markel Hutchins, founder of OneCOP, said. 

OneCOP began in an immigrant neighborhood in Atlanta where the disconnected and distrustful relationship between residents and the police made it easier for crime to flourish. OneCOP held events such as basketball games between the local children and law enforcement officers, which built a trusting relationship and led to people reporting more crimes.

“More and more individuals from that community kept coming forward to their local law enforcement,” Ryan Yarrell, executive director of OneCOP Indianapolis, said. “They were now at ease knowing that these people are here to help. Slowly but steadily, they were actually able to reduce that targeted victimized crime they were experiencing.”

Believe Indy plans to partner with other organizations and sponsor events, although Soards was tight-lipped about which ones. However, Believe Indy will help fund Operation Hydration, a drive to collect water bottles for the homeless, on May 23, and AT&T will participate in the Indy Civil Hack hackathon, in which participants will create digital educational tools, on June 14.

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.


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