After multiple incidents of violence that have taken place since the start of spring in Muncie, the city and community members are asking for help.
The Muncie Unity Center’s Gun Violence Prevention Team hosted an event on April 21 and brought Indianapolis Rev. Charles Harrison to speak and help the community come up with a plan to curb gun violence involving youth.
Harrison is the senior pastor for Barnes United Methodist Church and a part of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based organization whose mission is to reduce violence and address critical issues in Indianapolis and surrounding areas, according to indytenpoint.com.
Yolanda Taylor, executive director of the Unity Center, said it is important to understand the root of the issue within gun violence so the community can make changes in the youth. The Unity Center's targeted group is elementary and middle school children.
“We want our community to be safe for our children, safe for our elderly, safe for everyone,” Taylor said. “What we are trying to do is be proactive instead of reactive.”
The community needs to start reaching out and connecting with the youth and targeted neighborhoods, similar to the way the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition works, Harrison said.
He said change can be made by using three key objectives and goals:
- Going into the streets to meet and talk with the targeted youth
- Getting kids and teens back in school
- Encouraging and helping those youths at risk to get jobs
Street patrolling and neighborhood policing is a start, Harrison said.
“I believe that community policing is not the police policing the neighborhood, but it’s the community engaged in policing its own neighborhood,” Harrison said. “We have to address the root causes that are getting young people to get involved in gangs and criminal activity, and it takes everybody.”
In past street patrolling, the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition have teamed up and used ex offenders who turned their lives around as the ambassadors on the street.
“These people were once where these kids were and still have reputations in the streets,” Harrison said. “They can talk to these kids in a way that I can’t.”
The message the community needs to send to the youth is that there are better choices in life and it is possible to to turn their lives around.
Harrison said by engaging and coming together as a community, change is possible, and the neighborhoods the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition targets — Butler-Tarkington, Crown Hill and the United Northwest Area — have shown that.
After intervention, Butler-Tarkington has gone 190 days without homicide, Crown Hill area 162 days and the United Northwest area 184 days.
Change can only be made if the community is committed on addressing the issues and roots of the violence and begins to model the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition approach, Harrison said.
“This meeting is fine, but the real meeting needs to be taking place on the streets. You need to go out and say to them there are other choices that you have in life,” Harrison said. "Everyone has to invest in helping these young people so they can get out of the cycle and put those drugs down, put the guns down and become productive citizens.”
The Unity Center will be hosting its first gun violence prevention rally from 4-7 p.m April 22 at the Canan Commons located on S. Walnut St. in downtown Muncie.