A high-powered panel of public safety officials, City-County officials and community leaders came together in Indianapolis on Tuesday night to discuss solutions to youth violence plaguing the city.
The panel of experts, who attended the town hall meeting at Eastern Star Church, were there to listen to ideas from the public, and they received plenty of input from parents, youth advocates and teens themselves throughout the two hour event.
“Give them options,” said Harry Mimms, who works with Project Last Chance. “Give them somewhere to go that’s just for them. Right now, they feel like they don’t have anywhere to go so they’ll just go to the mall.”
The recent shooting at the Circle Centre mall downtown is just one of the events that once again brought the issue of youth violence into the forefront. Whether it’s groups of teens getting into trouble downtown or the two teens who are accused of going on a deadly crime spree throughout the city, the teens in attendance on Tuesday night said a solution needs to come before their peers turn to crime.
“We need resources from the city to help fund (youth) programs,” said James Williams, who is involved with Young Men Inc.
Ron Harrod had two sons who were shot and killed on Father’s Day last year. He said his solution includes more emphasis on strengthening punishments for gun-related crimes.
“You get convicted of stealing a $100 pair of tennis shoes, it’s theft and it’s a D felony here in Indiana. You get convicted of carry a handgun without a license, it’s a misdemeanor,” Harrod said. “Those types of things also need to be addressed, so that preferably what happened to me, my family and other families here in our community won’t have to happen to anybody else.”
“In many ways it’s easier to get a gun in this city than it is to get an education,” said U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, who was also in attendance at the meeting.
Hogsett wasn’t on the panel of public safety and city leaders, so he offered his own solutions. He said he’d like to step up efforts to prosecute adults who arm minors with guns. He’d also target specific zipcodes with federal prosecutors to enforce zero tolerance policies.
“A young person here is four times more likely to be a victim of murder than the national average in this zip code, right here,” Hogsett said, referring to the east side.
Members of the panel didn’t offer their own solutions. They were simply there to listen to the public input. However, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said newly formed efficiency teams will soon respond.
“A lot of the information we get tonight will be part of those teams and from those teams, we’ll be drawing a blueprint for the future,” Riggs said.
Maggie Lewis, president of the City-County Council, helped organize the town hall. She said they plan to hold a similar event on the west side soon. She said the City-County Council will also be taking input they hear at the meetings and examining how they might be able to take action.