INDIANAPOLIS — An anti-violence youth program in Indianapolis is hoping to reach kids this summer before gangs do by providing 'gang resistance training.'
The kids participating in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's gang resistance education and training camp are between ages ten and 14. Officials say this is the most impressionable age range where kids' friends are critical to them, and they care what people think. If they're not active and involved, they could easily be swayed in the wrong direction.
Gangs, violence, drug abuse, crime — all tough topics — are being discussed at IMPD's GREAT Camp at the JTV Hill Center.
For two weeks, kids learn what to watch out for: How gang members target them, what they say to convince and manipulate you, and more.
"One of the hardest ones for me was that I didn't know girls could join gangs," Allen Sembly, a participant, said. "I thought it was just boy gangs."
"They will have to make that hard decision one day if they come upon someone trying to get them in the gang," Marilyn Gurnell, a GREAT Camp officer, said. "They have to remember what they were taught."
Even though the summer camp is offered beginning at ten-years-old, Gurnell says gang members approach kids as young as eight.
"Using them as a lookout and maybe putting drugs on them to hold," she said. That's why educating them now is pivotal.
"One child at a time and that's what we were doing," Gurnell said. "If we just save one out of this camp we've done our job."
Thus far, there have been 56 homicides this year in Indianapolis. There were 67 by this time last year.
LOOK | Map of 2019 Indianapolis Homicides |
Once kids age out of the gang resistance program, Mayor Joe Hogsett hopes they take advantage of Project Indy connecting teens with summer job opportunities and training.