MUNCIE, Ind. (April 21, 2016) - After a violent start to spring in Muncie, community leaders are asking for help from outside organizations to curb gun violence involving teens.
Reverend Charles Harrison with Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition spoke to a large crowd Thursday night at Muncie's Unity Center. Harrison talked about Ten Point's success in reaching and connecting with teens and young adults that, with time, has decreased the number of shootings in their target neighborhoods.
“We had several hundred people from the neighborhood who walked through the neighborhood and it was sending a signal that we were tired of the violence in that neighborhood and that we were going to stand up against it," Harrison said.
He recommend that Muncie use a similar approach, using three key objectives and goals; going into the streets to meet and communicating with teens, getting kids and teens back into school, and encouraging and helping them get jobs.
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler admitted getting enough cash to help fund jobs has been an issue. He said he's planning on speaking with the city controller Friday to find out if additional funds can be used to support summer jobs for teens, like cleaning up city streets and parks.
“A program to put some money in these kids pockets and that’s something I’ve been struggling with on how to do that, but I’ve come up with some pretty good ideas after listening to him that I think will work in Muncie," Tyler said.
Harrison said the involvement starts with the entire community from schools and churches, to mothers and fathers, and city and county leaders.
“You have to invest in helping these young people get out of the cycle so they will put the guns down, put the drugs down and become productive citizens," Harrison said.
That's been the mission of The Unity Center. The focus is on "reporting" guns to adults. They're encouraging teens to focus on telling the truth and not worry about being called a "snitch." The center is opening up their doors for conversations where teens and kids feel comfortable admitting to known violence.
County leaders, like Sheriff Ray Dudley agree that kids and teens aren't always receptive to law enforcement. He said the event Thursday night was a great showing of support for people who would be positive influences for young people.
“Right now in Muncie, we really need this. It’s already, we’ve had a couple bad incidents and I think it’s gonna get worse unless we all come together and make something happen," Dudley said.
Jamal Wolfe knows firsthand the devastating effects of gun violence. His brother, Vincent Wolfe was killed last week in Muncie. He says Thursday's event was a great start, but hopes the city can also work to focus on the problems before gun violence even begins.
“It’s not just gun violence. It’s everything that’s going on. It’s the stuff that leads up to gun violence. If there’s other ways people can resolve their difference they won’t resort to gun violence," Wolfe said.
The Muncie Unity Center is sponsoring a rally against gun violence Friday, April 22 starting at 4 p.m. at the Canan Commons in downtown Muncie. For more information on the Muncie Unity Center, click here.