Mayor Joe Hogsett, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Bryan Roach and Director of Community Violence Reduction Shonna Majors gathered June 3 at Wheeler-Dowe Boys and Girls Club to share plans for preventing summer violence and getting youth involved in more activities that will keep them out of trouble.
This announcement couldn’t come a minute too soon.
I try not to be hyperbolic about crime, but it’s hard not to be when there’s news of a homicide or attempted homicide weekend after weekend, day after day. Just this week a man and woman were killed and another man wounded by gunfire. The incidents happened on the north side and west side of the city. Indy residents woke up to news that a man was shot and killed on June 2 downtown. That’s three homicides in as many days. In another incident, a bullet entered a family’s bedroom, hitting the crib of a newborn baby and lodged into the wall. The baby is 2 weeks old. Two weeks. His life is just barely beginning and it could’ve ended in tragedy. We can’t go on like this for the rest of the summer.
And it’s not just gun violence that has me worried. A man recently vandalized businesses on the west side with a slingshot. Yes, you read that correctly: a slingshot. Thieves broke into a local family’s garage and stole children’s bikes, clothes and whatever else they could. The couple is expecting a baby in a few weeks, and now they have next to nothing.
Again, we can’t go on like this for the rest of the summer.
To address crime, city leaders are investing about $4 million in a community-focused violence reduction strategy that includes a return to having beat cops. Having cops really know a neighborhood could have a lasting positive impact. People will be less prone to commit a crime if they know a police officer is a few feet away.
Youth are a major part of this plan. As they should be. Keeping youth involved in activities that keep them out of trouble is vital. I’m going to echo my elders because now I understand “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Leaving teens without structured activities for a whole summer is just asking for trouble. They will find something to do and that something may not be good and could have lasting consequences — far beyond what their undeveloped brains can comprehend. There will be two Peacemakers whose sole priority will be identifying juveniles who are vulnerable to committing a violent crime — or being a victim — and stepping into squash the situation before it escalates. Not only does this keep youth out of the juvenile justice system or a casket, but it helps them learn conflict resolution skills, which will benefit them far into adulthood.
IMPD and the Office of Public Health and Safety’s violence reduction team will connect youth with jobs and job training programs through Project Indy and youth-focused programs such as the Boys and Girls Club and Project Transformation Indiana. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say how having to go to work kept them out of the foolishness their friends got into. A summer job teaches many skills teens will need throughout life, and let’s not forget the self-esteem boost one gets when you have a few dollars in your pocket.
I really like the thoroughness of this plan. Not only did city leaders think of ways to provide youth with structured activities, jobs and ways to reduce violence, they didn’t forget that they’re dealing with young people, and young people want to have fun. Safe Saturdays will be a fun way for youth to cut loose at barbecues or other events — but in a safe environment. I know parents will be excited about Safe Saturdays.
I applaud city leaders for their efforts, however, they can’t do it alone. It takes all of us to keep our city safe. It starts in the home. Actually, it starts in the heart as Dr. Preston Adams said in his Spiritual Outlook column in this week’s edition.