Indianapolis ‘peacemakers’ working to inform community about efforts to curb violence

INDIANAPOLIS — A citywide initiative is underway in Indianapolis to help spread the word and get people involved in crime reduction and prevention efforts.

The Indy Peace Fellowship is launching a series of presentations across the city to help better engage the community. The program made its second stop of its “Meet the Peacemakers Tour” on Tuesday at Tuxedo Park Baptist Church.

While the church sat filled from wall to wall during Tuesday’s meeting, Leslie Smith knows all to well the pain that comes along with violence. Her 22-year-old son was seriously injured in a shooting at Castleton Square Mall back in January.

“He will forever be scarred with seeing his best friend die and then running,” Smith said. “He literally had to play dead for this guy to stop shooting at him.”

Smith said she does not understand how or why a person would choose to take another person’s life.

“I grieve for our community because this is just not the way it’s supposed to be,” she said. “Because there is something wrong with an individual that is okay with taking the life of somebody not thinking that this person is somebody’s son or daughter, mom or dad.”

Smith said understanding why people commit crimes is very important. She also said she mental health is a huge issue.

“We need to understand the why,” Smith said. “If we can understand the why, then we can get ahead of crime. Then we know exactly what to look for. We identify after the fact.”

The Indy Peace Fellowship now brings people together through these presentations as a chance to share about the peacemakers are trying to make a change. There are more than 60 peacemakers engaging on a daily basis with people and communities impacted by crime.

“They are from these areas where gun violence is happening most,” described Della Brown, an Outreach Worker with the Indy Peace Fellowship. “So they have those relationships with the community, so that also helps be able to be a bridge when we do go out into the communities and try to engage with those individuals.”

The group acts as a bridge between those involved or impacted by violence and the services and resources available in the community.

“If we can help one person, we’re helping, because that one person will help the people they’re around,” Brown said.

It is all part of a three year $150 million investment into crime reduction and crime prevention in Indianapolis, which Mayor Joe Hogsett said is crucial.

“The ages are getting younger of both the perpetrators and the victims,” Hogsett said Tuesday night. “And so we have to stop at rise of violence.”

The peacemakers work to connect people with the tools and services they need to get out of a cycle of violence.

As we now sit at 61 homicides for the year, which is up by 11 from the same time last year, Brown said she always stays motivated by remembering her brother who she lost to gun violence more than a decade ago.

“I always go back to my why,” she described. “Why am I doing this? That kind of helps me stay levelheaded and stay focused and still be like we just have to do it. It may not be overnight, it’s not going to be overnight.”

While peacemakers know the work is far from over, people like Smith hope meetings like Tuesday night’s spark interest in joining the fight.

“Now you got an organization that is joining with a church, that makes the reach of what they’re trying to do even bigger,” she said.

As we near summer, the Indy Peace Fellowship plans to continue engaging with various organizations to help spread awareness. The program provides life coaching to people impacted by crime, and also helps connect them to the various services and tools in the area.

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