INDIANAPOLIS — Mayor Joe Hogsett is banking heavily on $15 million in community anti-violence funding in the coming year to put a dent in Indianapolis’ recent violent crime trend.
American Recovery Act money from the federal government has allowed Hogsett to make a $45 million, three-year promise to fund anti-violence programs at the community level while spending in excess of $100 million on improved technology and manpower for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Last year, Indianapolis recorded 271 of Marion County’s 283 homicides and more than 700 non-fatal shootings.
“I would refrain from calling 2022 a ‘make-or-break year’ because this is a three-year commitment, because I believe we may need all of those three years to make a transformative change in the city of Indianapolis,” the mayor told CBS4.
Hogsett had just completed a tour of Union at 16th Apartments at West 16th Street and White River Parkway, a $30 million, 159-unit complex of affordable apartments that fill up just as soon as construction trainees like Daryl Wilson finish their work.
“It’s an opportunity to learn a new trade and that I probably wouldn’t have known if I didn’t come here and try,” said Wilson, 20, who was brought into the BUILD workforce development program by Troy Turner. “It’s always important to be on time, to get here 10 minutes early and check in, and he has me go doing something, or, if not, I find something to do and keep myself busy so and get a good work ethic.”
BUILD stands for Believers United in Local Development.
Turner received $45,000 last year and will receive another $100,000 this year in community anti-violence funding to pay stipends to teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 in order to introduce them to the construction trades and a potential career.
“As we work to impact neighborhoods like ours, to reduce crime, to create a more livable community, we offer this training opportunity, and they get that benchmark, that milestone moment in their lives, whereby demonstrating their skill and getting mentored in the trades they reach that turning point,” he said. “Specifically, providing labor and carpentry skilled labor opportunities for trainees to work with the trades, work to improve their community and build a skill set and along the way be mentored into the skilled trades.”
Turner expects to hire on 30 trainees in the coming year who also make commitments to follow through with community service, mentoring, leadership training and continuing adult education at Marion University if applicable.
“They now know that there is something outside of their neighborhood aside of the small things that they’re dealing with, and they can see a future for themselves.”
Hogsett said he’s looking to fund community anti-violence programs during the next three years that divert youth from potential trouble, teach them job skills and benefit the community such as through affordable housing construction.
“Take programs like BUILD that have a track record of success but now can be scaled up in ways that more people will be involved, more people will be engaged, more success stories can be calibrated,” he said. “We want to be nimble. We want to be able to pivot. If something seems to be working well, we want to invest more in it.
“By the same token, if investments we are currently making don’t seem to be measuring in terms of the results we are expecting, we want to be able to make those changes as well.”
Hogsett has said he expects the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the non-profit entity and clearinghouse for dispersal of the city funds, to monitor the progress of programs like BUILD which has quarterly reviews of its spending and its delivery of services.
“What it does is it reduces the opportunities for our trainees to get sidetracked and keep them on the right path, and we found if we can get them through that 16 – 24-year-old age window, they can start making informed decisions, and those decisions lead to a better person who is engaged in their community,” said Turner.
Last year in Indianapolis, at least 75 homicide victims and 17 murder suspects fell into the demographic age range served by BUILD.
Wilson said he graduated from Lawrence North High School and knows of friends and classmates who might not have fallen victim to violence if they’d had the opportunity to train in the BUILD program.
“I was like, ‘That would be good, so I won’t be out here in the streets and do nothing bad and keep myself busy and be a working man,’” he said. “I know a lot of people that’s out here and family, and I’ll be telling them about the program I’m going into and try to talk them into it so they can put their lives in a better situation.”