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Faith leaders and mentors discuss way to prevent youth gun violence in Indianapolis

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Posted at 11:04 PM, May 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-07 23:14:02-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Gun violence is a topic of conversation held almost daily, and it’s a problem that is impacting our youth.

Congregations United to Reduce Violence (CURV) held a forum to discuss ways to prevent gun violence among youth on Sunday.

"I think there is a big communication and culture gap,” Kareem Hines, Founder of New Breed Youth Mentoring and Development, said.

Hines, originally from New York, said his mentor had a major impact on his life, which is why he started the organization.

Hines says getting kids out of the culture of gun violence comes down to consistency and a sense of community in their lives.

"I think we lost that sense of community and the kids have replaced it,” Hines said. “They have replaced that parental engagement with music and social media. I think if we can bring that sense of community back through more collaboration, we can give our kids a little more hope.”

One kid that Hines has helped get back on the right path is 17-year-old Devin Berry. He says hopelessness is something many kids who grow up in underserved parts of the city are dealing with daily.

"Where I come from and the people I use to hang with, it's like we ride together, we die together type of stuff,” Berry, a Mentee of New Breed Youth Mentoring and Development, said. “Like we aren’t looking at going to Hawaii, we are looking to get some money in our pockets so we can have food and nice clothes."

Berry himself had a hard time staying away from gun violence until the mentoring program showed him how his life could be different. Since getting involved in the program, he is now set to attend college in the fall.

Berry started sharing his story to other kids his age in hopes of inspiring them to make a change.

"They don't just do mentoring; they take boys to New York and California. To be in this mentoring program has showed me that you have an opportunity to be something different in life," Berry said.

CURV says focusing resources on people most likely to be impacted by gun violence is one of the most effective components of a gun violence reduction strategy.

"There are people who have certain factors in their history that make them at higher risk to be shot or a shooter in the next six months," Karen Walker, with CURV, said.

CURV says there are four pillars to an effective gun violence reduction strategy:

  • Data Driven Identification
    • a. Using data from past shootings to identify the high-risk population. Those who are likely to be involved in a shooting within a year.
  • 2) Direct and Respectful Communication
    • a. Reaching out to folks to help them and understanding their risks to offer real help.
  • 3) Community Support
    • a. Connecting those who agree with life coaches and services that truly help them change their lives.
  • 4) Focused enforcement
    • a. Making sure those who don’t want help and continue to cause violence in the community are spending an appropriate amount of time behind bars.

Therefore, those who attended the forum hope people understand how important maintaining a gun violence reduction strategy in the city of Indianapolis is.
"If you can start bringing these kids to the table and showing them that their insight is important and that their voice is strong, I think that will help bridge the gap, “Hines said.

According to the city of Indianapolis, their violence reduction plan decreased criminal homicides by 16% in 2022. American rescue plan dollars funded that program.

Advocates are concerned that once that money runs out, the program will end.