INDIANAPOLIS — The Indy Peace Fellowship launched a new initiative aimed at reducing gun violence in Indianapolis called the “I Choose Peace” campaign and it comes as the city has seen a violent start to the summer. 

The city’s Office of Public Health and Safety is rolling out a new program called “Summer in the City.”

Advocates hope the program along side that peace campaign will help them reduce violence, especially among the city’s youth. 

At the campaign launch, seat after seat was reserved. They weren’t for people attending, but those would couldn’t. Each seat represented a person who’d been murdered this year in Indianapolis.

“By coming together as a community and working towards a common goal of peace we can make a real difference in reducing gun violence and creating a safe and more vibrant city,” said Indy Peacemaker Della Brown.

The campaign’s goal is for people to post, speak out and stand up against gun violence and reduce the number of those reserved seats. 

“During the summertime, idle time is everybody’s playground to do whatever they want,” said Tony Lopez who serves as the city’s Deputy Director of Violence Reduction.

The city also publicized it’s new “Summer in the City” program.  

It’s a 7-week program for kids ages 16 to 19 where they can learn skills like cooking, barbering or even fitness training. It replaces the previous “Safe Summer” program that gave kids a space to go during the summer, but only on Friday nights. 

“Keep them safe for one night great keep but them safe for a whole summer and get their mind thinking about something else,” said Shardae Hoskins with the Indy Peace Fellowship.

Hoskins described the new program as a shift from a short-term strategy to the long-term.

“We’re trying to give them skills, employable skills, that takes them past summer,” Hoskins said.

City leaders say they’re confident the programming and campaign will have a positive impact. 

Whether or not it reduces violence is yet to be seen. 

“Even though we don’t know for sure if what we’re doing is what’s making it work we are going to constantly keep doing the work we’re doing,” Lopez said. “Because if we’re not then we’re just sitting around and we’re not getting anything done.”

The “Summer in the City” program begins on June 5. There are still spots available for teens to get signed up and you can do so here.

You can also get involved in the “I Choose Peace” campaign by visiting the Indy Peace Fellowship website.