INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Pastor Horatio Luster, of Peacekeepers Indianapolis, has spent decades walking the streets of Indianapolis, meeting victims and perpetrators of gun violence along with scared mothers and teenagers who say they need firearms to protect themselves in dangerous communities.
A recent study by the Violence Policy Center shined a statistical spotlight on homicide in Indiana and its disturbing results did not surprise Luster.
“It’s a genocide,” he said. “The statistics line up with the body count.”
The VPC’s report, headlined, “Indiana Ranks #8 in Nation for Black Homicide Victimization,” shows that in 2015, according to FBI statistics, the Hoosier state ranked in the top ten for homicide in the black community with 26.44 killings per 100,000 population.
While that rate was one-and-a-half times the national average, it was down from two years earlier when Indiana ranked #1 in the nation for black homicide victimization.
Those numbers are even more stunning considering Indiana ranks 18th in the nation for African American population.
The statistics in Indianapolis are worse.
Last year, 123 of the city’s 177 homicide victims were black.
That’s 69% of the total and a rate of 51.25 victims per 100,000 population, twice the statewide number.
“It has become extremely dangerous based on what we are seeing, based on what we have seen the last few years,” said Luster, “yes, it has become dangerous to be an African American in the city of Indianapolis.”
92% of 2015’s victims were killed with a gun.
“Its imperative that legislation step up and do more with assault weapons that are hitting the street just on a regular basis,” said Luster referring to a resolution before the City County Council calling on the General Assembly to ban semi-automatic rifles and extended clips. “If we look at the numbers of the last few years, the increase of gun violence, because when we talk about blacks in the city of Indianapolis, the African American community, the majority of the homicides have been by guns.”
Luster said the city needs to recognize and practice a multi-pronged approach to tackling violent crime and reducing the homicide numbers in the African American community.
“I’m a firm believer that our greatest resource that’s going to contribute to decrease the violence in our community, the greatest resource that our community has is the community.
“Here in the city of Indianapolis we have the poverty stricken areas that are wages below $15,000 a year. We have lack of education. We have single homes being ran by mothers that are trying to raise teenage young men that are just barely grown themselves.”
Mayor Joe Hogsett maintains that neighborhoods where IMPD has reverted to community policing in an attempt to focus on patrolling smaller geographic areas have seen crime go down.
Hogsett has spent recent Sundays visiting congregations across the city promoting his summer youth jobs program while FOX59 recently sponsored its Pack the Pantries campaign which raised over $100,000 to provide more than 300,000 meals for Indianapolis residents in attempt to fight crime and desperation by relieving hunger.
The mayor’s office is currently in the process of hiring a community violence reduction coordinator and staff to emphasize tailored neighborhood solutions to violence.