Steering youth from crime priority for Indy’s city, community leaders

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. –City and community leaders in Indianapolis continue to be concerned about kids and teens committing crimes.

Many are heartbroken to see the news about the five teens facing charges for a string of armed robberies. Three are less than 18 years old.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s just another story,’ but no that’s another life lost,” said Eric Saunders, the Volunteer Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Indiana.

Saunders wants people to pay careful attention to the kids who commit crimes.

“It’s damaging to the kids,” said Saunders. “It’s damaging to the communities. For years, I’ve always asked, what, how could that child’s life have been different if they had had a mentor in their life.”

Saunders hopes people aren’t becoming numb seeing some young teens in Indianapolis jailed or killed.

“It’s not just that kids issue, it’s a community issue,” said Saunders. “We all do need to step up.”

Deputy Mayor David Hampton believes “stepping up” means helping struggling kids sooner.

“I’m of the philosophy that we have to start as young as possible,” said Hampton. “We need to really start with our school-age kids.”

He also acknowledges that targeting younger kids is a long-term solution. In the meantime, he doesn’t want people to give up on some of the teenagers most vulnerable to going down a bad path.

“These are teens that committed the crime, so we have to find ways in which to engage teenagers,” said Hampton. “We as a city of Indianapolis and as a community need to work together to find ways to engage our youth to ensure that they are kept off of the streets and that they are mentored in healthy ways to steer them away from the type of incidences that we saw last night.”

Hampton knows that for a group of kids, it will be a hard battle. Some, he says, have grown up never knowing when their next meal will come, pushing them into survival mode for the rest of their lives.

“These activities are rooted in economics,” said Hampton. “It’s street economics. It’s illegal economics, but it’s economics nonetheless. It’s to fill a void. It’s a quick way to get money.”

While some kids can overcome, for others, poverty and a lack of positive role models can be a toxic combination.

For their sake, Saunders hopes situations like last night’s robbery convinces others their help is needed.

“This is an opportunity for a volunteer, a member of our community to reach out to young people, another generation,” said Saunders.

Saunders is actively searching for more volunteers for Big Brothers, Big Sisters so they don’t have to turn kids away or keep them waiting for matches.

If you’re interested in mentoring someone who needs it, call him at 317-472-3720 or 317-921-2201.

There are also other mentoring groups in Indianapolis, including Crown Mentoring for young boys and the Starfish Initiative for high school students.

You can find other mentoring organizations near you by clicking here.

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