Mixed results on mayor’s report card for reducing summer youth violence

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - So far this year, 13 people under the age of 20 have lost their lives to violence in Marion County.

That’s more than ten percent of the city and county’s pursuit of a record annual homicide total.

In June, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a plan to more intensely monitor teenagers released from juvenile detention after being jailed and adjudicated on weapons charges.

The mayor’s goal was the cooperation of 25 youngsters to voluntarily enroll in the Project Safe Neighborhoods Juvenile Re-Entry Program to undergo enhanced probation monitoring, home visits, anti-violence and weapons counseling and improved educational and vocational training.

By summer’s end, nine youths volunteered for the program as the mayor’s office will seek extension of a $30,000 grant past the end of the month to continue work with those teenagers and encourage Marion County juvenile probation officers to sign up more of their clients.

“I’m with my guys two to three times a week for at least two hours a session,” said Luv Taylor, a mentor employed by Connections, Inc., a behavioral health care and wellness program provider. “Most of our kids are either low or high risk. We know they’re coming from probation.

“We get them involved in the community. We teach them life skills, independent skills, behavioral skills, we really work with them on getting them back into school, those that are not, just pursuing their educational dreams.”

Kendrick Johnson, 17, is one of those who realized during two months inside the Marion County Juvenile Center that it was time to change the direction of his life.

“I was into a little wild things, getting into trouble, nothing too big. I was just kind of lost going toward trouble and stuff,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking.”

Johnson has volunteered several times this summer at Wheeler Mission, dishing up lunch to the residents, while he continues studying for his General Equivalency Diploma and focusing on a career in the construction industry.

“I did a lot of thinking in there and when I got out, I changed,” said Johnson, reflecting back on his 60 days behind bars. “Now I’m hanging around different people, doing good things. I got back in school. I actually thought I would never be able to get back in school but I got back in school and my life’s been going good.”

Johnson said if he was still at Lawrence Central High School, he’d be playing football in front of cheering crowds on Friday nights.

Now, he’s concentrating on the future and not becoming a victim or a perpetrator of violence.

“I just think about that all the time,” Johnson said. “If I don’t get myself together and if I keep being wild I could run into some trouble and end up losing my life. I think about a lot of stuff a lot.”

The IMPD Mountain Bike Skills Park at Washington Park exceeded beyond the city’s expectations with 1,300 bike riders tackling the course this summer.

A total of 65 youngsters participated in either a leadership academy or the two-week Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” said Johnson. “But I know people need a little help, sometimes you do need to be pushed, but, people need a little help because everybody can’t do it on their own. I can do it. They can do it. Never give up.”

The city reports more than 5000 teens signed up through the Project Indy portal to seek jobs this summer.

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