Indianapolis, Indiana – The pervasive issue of gun violence continues to affect our youth, becoming an all too familiar topic of discussion in today’s society.
On Sunday, Congregations United to Reduce Violence (CURV) convened a forum to explore preventative measures against youth gun violence. Kareem Hines, founder of New Breed Youth Mentoring and Development, identified a significant communication and cultural gap as part of the issue.
Hines, a New Yorker by origin, credits his own mentor with profoundly influencing his life, which inspired him to establish the organization. He believes that fostering a consistent and supportive community presence is the key to extricating young people from the culture of gun violence.
According to Hines, a loss of community has led youths to seek solace in music and social media, supplanting parental engagement. By enhancing collaboration and nurturing a sense of community, he hopes to instill hope and a brighter future for the younger generation.
One young individual who has benefited from Hines’s guidance is 17-year-old Devin Berry. Growing up in an underserved part of the city, Berry encountered hopelessness on a daily basis. The New Breed Youth Mentoring and Development program offered him an alternative path, steering him away from gun violence and toward college in the fall.
Eager to inspire others, Berry now shares his story with his peers, highlighting the transformative power of the mentoring program. CURV emphasizes that allocating resources to those most at risk of being affected by gun violence is crucial for an effective reduction strategy.
Karen Walker, a representative of CURV, points out that certain factors in a person’s history may predispose them to a higher risk of involvement in gun violence within the next six months. CURV’s comprehensive gun violence reduction strategy encompasses four essential pillars:
- Data-Driven Identification a. Analyzing data from previous shootings to pinpoint high-risk individuals who may be involved in future incidents.
- Direct and Respectful Communication a. Offering genuine assistance by reaching out to high-risk individuals and understanding their needs.
- Community Support a. Connecting those who are receptive to life coaches and services that can genuinely help them transform their lives.
- Focused Enforcement a. Ensuring that those unwilling to accept help and persist in causing community violence receive appropriate legal consequences.
Participants in the forum underscored the importance of sustaining a robust gun violence reduction strategy in Indianapolis. Hines suggested that involving young people in the conversation and valuing their insights could help bridge the gap.
In 2022, Indianapolis reported a 16% decrease in criminal homicides, thanks to a violence reduction plan funded by American Rescue Plan dollars. However, advocates fear that the program may come to an end once the funding is exhausted.