INDIANAPOLIS — Homicide rates are declining and Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Office of Public Health and Safety have worked together to create the Summer Outreach Series in order to keep it that way.
Hogsett kicked off the Summer Neighborhood Outreach Series at Grassy Creek Park on the far east side Wednesday afternoon.
The event featured a barbecue, fresh vegetables, gun locks, mobile health screenings, and many other resources — all for free. It is the first of an ongoing series of events that the Office of Public Health and Safety will be putting on throughout the summer in an effort to curb violence.
"What our office of Public Health and Safety is doing is what I consider to be crime prevention, crime avoidance, crime interruption," Hogsett said.
The outreach program will repeat every Wednesday in June, each time in a different neighborhood that experiences high crime, violence, and food insecurity.
"This whole foundation that this administration is building is based on trust. So just because we don't have zero shootings, doesn't mean it's not working. We're here in the community. We're talking to them and they know we're here now," OPHS Director Lauren Rodriguez said.
Peacemakers were also present, getting to know the community. Peacemakers are "activists from local neighborhoods who act as violence interrupters and provide operational assistance to grassroots neighborhood groups engaged in violence prevention," according to the city's website.
"In order to really get someone's attention, what's the best way? Take them to eat. Since we can't take everybody out to eat individually, we brought the food to the hood. We're here to feed the 'streets' as some people would say," Peacemaker Branden Ballard said, who used the event as an opportunity to make connections in the neighborhood.
Building trust takes time, but city leaders are hopeful after seeing a strong turnout. Brooke Neal lives nearby and says this is a step in the right direction.
"It's going to take consistency, not just one event, but it's good to come out here and see this and get some resources," Neal said.
Alicia Russell also lives in the neighborhood and would like to see more events like this - things that will keep kids busy and fed.
"I just thought it was a blessing that they were coming out to the community to bless people that might need food to feed their families," Russell said.
Upcoming Summer Neighborhood Outreach Series:
- June 8: Gustafson Park, 3110 Moller Road
- June 15: Wes Montgomery Park, 3400 North Hawthorne
- June 22: Denver Park, 1024 Sharon Ave.
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