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Residents of Indy’s near east side using art to combat crime

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The near east side community is like family to Josie Hunckler.

She founded Rabble Coffee on East 10th Street, so despite attempted robberies, burglaries and overdoses, she’s focused on trying to better the neighborhood through art.

“That sort of freedom of expression will help people a lot,” Hunckler said.

She’s part of Indy East Art Peace. The group is made up of residents, artists and IMPD East District officers. It’s part of an initiative from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, in partnership with the Near East Area Renewal. Their goal is to prevent and reduce crime through art on the near east side.

Hunckler said she signed up at first because she had some skepticism about the approach.

“But as I learned more about crime prevention through environmental design and I sort of brought my own personal ethics into the parameters of the project I realized you can alleviate a lot of scarcity based crime with assessing people’s needs in the community,” she said.

Members of IEAP are working in teams to come up with ideas to engage the community through the processing of creating different kinds of art. The focus is on the Rural Street corridor from between Brookside Avenue and East Washington Street. Organizers said it was an IMPD crime hot spot.

“We’re not so much looking at putting art everywhere our job is to look at the protective factors in a community that helps keep a community from being susceptible to crime or keep people from committing crime in the first place and we’re looking at it from really that public health perspective,” said Julia Moore, the director of public art for the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

Tuesday night at the Near Eastside Neighborhood Summit, the groups presented their pitches to community members.

Hunckler’s was a writing center.

Next door at the Hoy Polloy art gallery, artists and residents Todd Bracik and Star Adita also joined the effort.

“What we’re trying to do is create an identity for the neighborhood,” Bracik said. “Rather than gentrifying them out we want to leave the people in the neighborhood work with them to kind of create a neighborhood identity to where they feel like they belong and give them a sense of pride in the neighborhood.”

The first part of their pitch is what they called Creating Art Together, through a neighborhood talent show and art night, to help see people in a different light.

“But not only to see police officers in a different way but also to get to know neighbors in a different way,” Adita said.

Police officers were also part of the teams.

IMPD Officer Samone Willis walked the crowd through an imagination of interactive sidewalk art and a mural, that ended with police visiting areas in an IMPD cares peace mobile unit.

“Just a different way for officers to engage with the community both with adults  and youth while having fun engaging activities. So some football, basketball, kickball whatever the vicinity allows us to do taking it to a neighborhood,” Officer Willis said.

Next, organizers will see which projects community members voted for during Tuesday’s meeting. Then they’ll spend the next four months working to turn the ideas into actual plans and estimate costs.

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