City to launch community conversations on crime

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 16, 2014) — When it comes to Indianapolis crime, there’s the perception and there’s the reality.

The perception, after a pair of violent home invasion robberies last fall and a murder rate that skyrocketed in 2013 and a recent quadruple homicide on the city south side followed by a fatal shootout between SWAT officers and a drug dealer, is that Indianapolis has become a more violent place.

But the reality is, violent crime is down by double digits this year compared to last, and last year it was down compared to 2012.

Thursday, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the main Indianapolis Public Library, city leaders will launch their “Community Conversation” program intended to generate a citywide family discussion on crime and its solutions.

“We can’t just do nothing,” said Mayor Greg Ballard, “I can tell you that.”

The program, which Public Safety Director Troy Riggs likens to a family dinnertime conversation, is intended to generate awareness and answers on a household-by-household, city block-by-city block basis.

Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams agrees that Indianapolis’ mothers are the city’s front line in literal Homeland Security.

“Moms should know what’s going on in their home,” said Williams during a gang awareness conference for parents this weekend. “They should go look in that room, in that mattress, in that closet, in that shoe box, to see what’s going on and sit down and talk with their family and question them when they bring something in the house that you know you didn’t buy or didn’t want to buy.”

“As a city I think it’s a great idea…it starts at the kitchen table, at the sofa and then it spreads beyond other agencies, churches, the youth centers having conversations. The barber shop. The beauty shop having the conversation.”

City agencies will assist churches, schools, neighborhoods and other organizations in holding the conversations and providing resources.

“Crime doesn’t know a color,” said Pastor Bill Jenkins of Church of Acts after he led a prayer vigil at a home on South Parker Avenue where four people were shot to death in a drug robbery last month. “It affects all of us and it’s time we allow every barrier to be broken. Everything that divides us needs to come down. We need to join together, hand-in-hand, north, south, east and west, red, yellow, black and white, to work together to never have to meet like this again.”

Reverend Malachi Walker of Great Commission Church of God has participated in dozens of similar prayer vigils at murder scenes in Indianapolis’ inner city but the south Parker Avenue vigil was the first time he brought the youngster of his Young Men, Inc., program to the far south side.

“Violence is not prejudice,” said Walker. “As a people we must learn no matter where violence is, we need to go out into the world as Christ has called us to do.”

The mayor said churches will be key in carrying the city’s Community Conversations to the neighborhoods where he said a generation of young African-American males is dying.

“It may make the difference between going to a graduation or a sentencing or a funeral.”

Details about Thursday night’s launch can be found at www.indy.gov/DPS or www.facebook.com/events/558771907555403/.