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New peacemakers hope to end violence in Indianapolis

Posted at 10:13 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 22:13:26-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A new group of 35 Hoosiers are now working with the City of Indianapolis to reduce gun violence.

The peacemakers started back in 2018 and the group is a liaison between police and the community.

The job of a peacemaker is to go out into the community and touch base with families in need and help to reduce violence with the goal of stopping it before it starts.

“Our new class of Peacemakers will play a critical role in reducing violence in neighborhoods across Indianapolis,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett.

Indianapolis’ gun violence reduction strategy focuses on those who are most at risk of being involved in violence. Peacemakers work to identify those who are high-risk and then provide the guidance they need.

“How can we help stop violent crimes from happening right now, but how can we stop violent crimes from happening in the future,” said OPHS Director Lauren Rodriguez.

The peacemakers are divided into three different positions: interrupters, life coaches and outreach workers. All are required to have connections and experience in the neighborhoods they will serve.

“They are able to reach individuals that we may not otherwise be able to reach and get to them and see what are their underlying things that need to be addressed,” Rodriguez said.

Interrupters work to stop a conflict that has the potential to turn deadly immediately before or while a crime is happening, including retaliatory violence.

Outreach workers assess whether an individuals’ risk factors—including employment status, age, education level and prior criminal justice involvement—require more intense, personalized support.

Life coaches work with clients up to 18 months to develop a “Life Plan” away from violent crime.

Daniel Mallory is one of the life coaches, working to identify those who need intensive wrap around services as well as serving as a mentor.

“We identify people who are at high risk of being an active shooter or has been [an] active shooter or is at risk of being a perpetrator of gun violence,” Mallory said.

Mallory knows all too well what it's like to face adversity.

“I watched my daughter grow up through pictures in a prison cell,” Mallory said.

The Peacemaker program will receive $37.5 million over the next three years through Mayor Hogsett’s violence reduction plan. The program is made possible through federal American Rescue Plan pandemic relief funds.

“It’s not just the city of Indianapolis, it's not just the mayor's administration, city council, law enforcement — it’s everybody who will make a difference in this. If people believe that, we need to come together,” Rodriguez said.

Peacemakers have stopped more than 600 interruptions in 2021 — an interruption is considered an instance before gun violence takes place.

Individuals who meet six out of these eight risk factors are deemed very high risk for becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence:

  • 18-35 years old
  • Black or Latino
  • Criminal justice involvement
  • Unemployed or underemployed
  • Lack of basic education
  • Associated with a crew or group gang
  • Previously shot or familiar with gun activity
  • Has a close friend or family member shot in the last 12 months

The city hopes to hire 15 more peacemakers soon.