INDIANAPOLIS — A program designed to offer safe spaces for our city’s youth this summer is now expanding in Indianapolis.

Since its debut in 2019, the city’s Safe Summer program has been used as a tool to try and prevent juvenile crime. During the months of June and July, the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety hosts a variety of free events designed to offer safe, meaningful spaces for kids to spend their summer.

“I think it’s important to host things for youth of all ages, all times, specifically in the summer months because they’re out of school,” said Lauren Rodriguez, Director of the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety. “We want to provide them a safe space for them to be kids. To allow them the opportunity to feel safe, but also to get them fed. Kids love food, they love basketball, they love activities, so we’re providing those things for them.”

Safe Summer officially began on Friday, June 10. From then through August 5, events will be held every Friday at Riverside and Garfield Parks from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and at Washington Park from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. City officials said, on Fridays, the events are geared towards teens ages 13-18.

However, for the first time since 2019, the city will now also offer Safe Summer events on Saturdays, too. On Saturdays, kids ages 9-17 are invited to “Sports of all Sorts” at Brookside Park from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

“They have access to activities like lacrosse, diving, track and field – and other sorts of sports they don’t normally have access to at all the schools,” said Rodriguez. “Everybody plays basketball, but we also want to make sure they have opportunities to learn other types of sports and activities.”

“We can provide a safe space for them to come, play, and just be kids,” said Devanta Scruggs, a community outreach coordinator with OPHS. “So many times our young people are having to have adult responsibilities at a young age and so Safe Summer is a space for them to come in, to be a young person, to have fun, to be active.”

As an outreach coordinator, Scruggs said his main role during Safe Summer is to build a connection with any teens that attend.

“Young men are losing their life on a daily basis so our job as outreach workers is try to get ahead of that,” said Scruggs. “To provide resources to these young men… so that they don’t become another number or statistic.”

According to data released by IMPD earlier this week, the city of Indianapolis has seen a total of nine homicides involving juvenile victims so far this year.

“Bring your kids out. We need your kids to be involved,” said Scruggs. “We want to keep them off the streets, you know. We don’t wanna see them on the news because they got shot. We don’t wanna see them on the news because something terrible happened. Bring them out to Safe Summer. Allow us to connect with them, allow us to love on them, allow us to be a mentor to them through this summer, and I believe if you do that, you’ll see a significant change in your child’s life.”