Homicides up among Indiana children and teens, says report

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 15, 2016)-- According to a recently released report, Indiana has seen a huge jump in the number of homicides among young people. Many of those deaths happened in Marion County.

According to studies gathered by the Indiana Youth Institute, homicides among children and teens (ages 0-19 ) increased from 35 homicides in 2012 to 65 homicides in 2013.

Homicides also account for 61 percent of deaths for black teenagers and young adults.

"Violence does touch every group, but it touches the African American community disproportionately," said Julie Whitman with IYI. "It's the leading cause of death for black males ages 15-24."

The last time IYI saw a significant rise in crime and violence among youth was in the early 1990s.

Deputy Mayor David Hampton said Mayor Joe Hogsett's administration is focused on fixing two main factors that can lead to violence, food insecurity and poverty. The Mayor's office has also initiated a summer jobs program for this year and is trying to increase youth programs and activities.

"My heart and I know the Mayor's heart pours out when we hear those types of statistics," said Hampton. "The community is gonna need to understand that we're at a state of emergency. Until we feel the sense of urgency we're going to continue to be complacent or even desensitized to the fact that our young people are dying right before our very eyes."

“It still could be me. It may not have been a homicide that day. But we’re in an everyday battle for survival,” said DeAndra Yates.

Her now 15-year-old son Dre is still in rehab in a facility in Illinois. He was at a party two years ago on the city’s northwest side when someone fired shots into a home. Dre was hit in the head by a bullet and sustained serious brain injuries.

“They told me to pull the plug after three days,” said Yates, “We flirted right there with homicide.”

Statistics released by the city of Indianapolis just a few weeks ago showed the increases in youth violence in Marion County. In 2012, five homicide victims were under age 18. By 2013, that increased to seven. In 2014, the number rose to 13, and then to 11 by 2015. Those same statistics also show that children are increasingly becoming suspects in crimes.

“We really have to wake up and begin to address the issue of youth violence at an early age,” said Rev. Malachi Walker.

Walker runs his own youth outreach ministry on the east side. He said kids need positive influences earlier in life, and many parents need to step up.

That’s a message DeAndra Yates preaches as she now travels the region and country, advocating for victims of gun violence like her son and praying that more parents can reverse a troubling trend.

“We’ve got to work hard with our kids while they’re in our home with us, the values and morals and things we put down with our children, while they’re in our care,” she said, “I think it starts there. We can’t be friends with our kids. We need to be parents to our kids.”

To read the full report, click here.

How can the community help?

Whitman said simple actions can go a long way.

"There’s been quite a bit of research and what’s effective for preventing violence and so we know the kinds of things that kids need. They need to be in environments that are structured, that are safe, that have good norms, that reinforce positive behavior, and where they can develop a relationship with a caring adult," she explained. "Reach out to a youth. Develop a positive relationship. Say hello to the kids in your neighborhood. Learn their names. Kids need connections."

To learn more about the City's initiatives and plan to fight violence, click here.

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