‘We have to make large scale changes’ in lives of those directly impacted by violent crime, Indy expert says


INDIANAPOLIS — Ninety-nine people have been killed by violence in the city so far this year. In a news conference Thursday following the drive-by shooting of a 12-year-old boy inside his grandma’s house, Mayor Joe Hogsett and Chief Randal Taylor said police and city officials cannot solve this public safety crisis alone.

“What keeps me awake at night is wondering what’s going on here,” Taylor said. “Why are we at this point? It’s a police issue that we have to concern ourselves with what happens, but it’s not a police problem with why this is happening.”

It seems the one thing everyone can agree on is police and politicians will not fix Indy’s public safety crisis alone. Thomas Stucky’s a criminal justice professor at IUPUI’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and researches why crime is higher in some areas.

“If we really want to make long-term changes to crime in the city of Indianapolis, then we have to make large-scale changes to the daily lives of the people who are at serious risk for crime victimization,” Stucky said.

Stucky said to turn the tide of crime, it will take major commitments in many areas of people’s lives.

“Good schools, stable families, good jobs available for people, a sense of hope,” Stucky said. “They’re critically important if we ultimately want to reduce crime.”

Stucky echoes what we’ve heard Taylor and the Hogsett Administration say for years: you cannot police your way out of a violence problem. Solutions must start long before someone picks up a crime gun.

“It turns out that there’s trauma that they often suffer as children, whether it’s early childhood or sometimes later childhood,” Stucky said.

The city pours more than $3 million annually into grassroots anti-violence organizations. Stucky said depending on how effective those programs are, that money is well spent.

“Prevention dollars that go into well-targeted prevention efforts are very much worth the investment,” Stucky said.

Violence interruption is one way to keep people alive tonight, and this hinges on community relationships and trust. Rev. Charles Harrison, leader of the Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition, said he recently received a call from a grandmother who was concerned about her teenage grandson’s well-being.

“She said her grandson had a gun and she felt like he was going to get drugs,” Harrison explained.

Harrison said through cooperation between TenPoint, IMPD, and the city, they were able to get the young person some help.

“We were able to get the gun from him and get it off the street,” Harrison said.

Shonna Majors, the city’s Director of Community Violence Reduction, said her team relies on community relationships too. Her team also relies on the trust they’ve built with neighbors to intervene in incidents like retaliatory shootings.

“That immediate intervention or interruption is sometimes life or death for some of our young people,” Majors said.

Prevention is difficult to measure, but Stucky said it should be the city’s focus.

“The seeds of a serious violent criminal don’t happen at age 17 or age 23, that starts much earlier in their life,” Stucky said.

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