Gang membership, illegal gun use causing surge in Indy violence

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 21, 2015) – Thursday night into Friday marked a violent stretch in Indianapolis. Five people were shot in less than twelve hours.

Two were left dead, including 16-year-old Jaylen Johnson, found in the backyard of a vacant home on 31st street near the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

"That was my nephew laying in the backyard dead,” said Vanita Johnson.

Sprayed on the home near his body was a gang sign, allegedly tied to a notorious group out of Chicago. Police are still investigating a connection.

Gang activity, illegal gun use and youth violence are all up according to city officials.

“The interventions we’re trying to make there are not going to happen overnight. There’s going to be a long tail on correcting those things,” said David Wantz, Indianapolis Director of Public Safety.

Overall, according to Wantz, homicides are down. There were 87 to date this time last year, and as of August 21, 2015, there have been 79 this year.

But in the city’s target crime areas where violence is an everyday occurrence, those numbers are up. There were 20 this time last year, and there have been 23 as of August 21st.

“The access to handguns with youth, people who should not be, these are not responsible gun owners, those things are pretty scary for everybody and you’re right, younger people are getting involved more often in pretty violent crimes,” Wantz said.

“It’s very easy, split second easy. You could walk down the street and get a gun,” said Rodriquez Sherman.

Sherman works at Connections Inc. a group aiming to help teenage gang members out of their cycle of violence. He’s not shocked by five shootings in 12 hours, or the gang connection. Gang membership he said is the largest it’s ever been, with social media, spawning a new age, of easy access to violence where arguments are beginning online and ending in gunshots on the street.

“It’s getting worse. Every argument, or every altercation, the end result is to grab a gun,” he said.

The work continues on behalf of law enforcement in an attempt to take out these gang leaders and get illegal guns off the street.