By Cameron Ridle RTV6
Sept. 20, 2019
INDIANAPOLIS — Gun violence is a topic many say isn’t talked about enough, but inside the doors of a church Thursday night, that’s all anyone wanted to talk about.
The people in the pews are looking to city leaders to reduce gun violence in Indianapolis. Desiree Luster is one of those people. She became a member of Faith In Indiana after her cousin was shot and killed on Indy’s east side.
“You move here, I had family here, but you move here and then you are kind of bombarded with that kind of violence, it’s very interesting,” Luster said. “It’s not encouraging to come or even to stay. That says a lot. We want to people to come to Indiana because it is a very nice place despite what’s going on.”
Faith In Indiana hosted a town hall with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office looking for ways to reduce gun violence and prevent the behaviors that lead to it. Pastor Winterbourne Harrison-Jones plans to hold city leaders to their promises.
“We are in an election season and we have horrible things happening around the nation, and so there’s this rat race now if you will, to bring attention to this issue that has existed in our communities for so long,” Harrison-Jones said. “But when the election season is over and the cameras are gone and when the killings continue, we need a continued commitment to walk hand and hand, to have hard conversations, put in place the hard policies and also the resources necessary.”
Faith in Indiana hopes the mayor implements a gun violence intervention program, an initiative they say is used in other cities and reduces crimes, including homicides. A program Luster said could’ve prevented her cousin’s killer from even picking up a gun.
“The kind of individual GVI is targeting is the kind of individual that took his life,” Luster said. “One of the biggest things we talk about is people don’t wake up and say I want to kill or I want to murder. It’s something that happens in a ripple effect, and so if we can reach them and give them the resources that they need so that doesn’t occur, I think that’ll help with a lot of fatalities.”
Paul Babcock with the mayor’s office said intervention and prevention are requests Mayor Hogsett is committed to fulfilling.
“In this year’s budget, there is approximately $4 million dedicated to crime prevention and violence interruption,” Babcock said. “Both in terms of $3 million in crime prevention grants and $1 million towards peacemakers as well as the director of Community Violence Reduction.”
The city’s Office of Public Health and Safety is looking to hire two new peacemakers. They work with law enforcement and the community to connect young people at risk of gun violence to resources and mentorship.