Coalition helping curb violence
The Rev. Charles Harrison gauges success in numbers.
In particular, he points to the 46208 ZIP code in Indianapolis where deaths from violence declined from 24 in 2015 to four in 2016. The area : containing the Children’s Museum and Butler University on Indianapolis’ near north side : had the second highest homicide rate in the city, Harrison says, until his TenPoint Coalition came along.
With teams of people working the streets, talking to victims of violence and those likely to commit violence, Harrison’s coalition works to reclaim neighborhoods and young lives. The 46208 is one of several Indianapolis neighborhoods the coalition has targeted. The effort has caught the attention of other cities, including Fort Wayne, which is starting its own TenPoint Coalition.
Gary has started a coalition. Muncie; Kokomo; Nashville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, are interested. Harrison said he would be traveling to Chicago and Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to discuss the program, which started in 1992 in Boston.
The Boston group did not return voice and email messages left last week seeking comment. According to its website, the Boston coalition mediates discussions between rival gangs, provides resources to help young people transition to positive lifestyles and develops relationships among residents, churches and nonprofits to defuse tensions.
In Indianapolis, TenPoint critics decry public money spent on a program without hard proof of success, the Indianapolis Star reported in May. The debate is causation and correlation, said Harrison, senior pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. He rejects arguments that downplay TenPoint’s role.
“The fact is that the homicides have been reduced in those neighborhoods. So, the argument is: Who’s responsible? And it’s awful funny that in all the neighborhoods that TenPoint is in homicides have gone down, when the rest of the city is experiencing a surge in homicides and breaking homicide records.”
The Indianapolis group now operates mostly on private donations, Harrison said.
The Fort Wayne coalition hopes to raise 10,000 and will donate a similar amount the next two years. City spokesman John Perlich said the city also is applying for a grant from the $500,000 Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is providing cities through the Indiana Drug Enforcement Association for programs adopting TenPoint principles.
Iric Headley, director of Fort Wayne United, would not say how much has been raised but is trying to get commitments for two or three years. Headley said he knows quantifying success is difficult.
“We’re all pretty intelligent people that understand data and metrics, and we know that prevention is one of the hardest things to measure,” he said. “So, I’m not a critic at all as far as what Rev. Harrison and the TenPoint has been able to do in Indianapolis. What we do know is some of their areas were homicide hot spots, and after the TenPoint was placed in those neighborhoods most of their homicides decreased and all the way down to zero in some neighborhoods.”
The Fort Wayne coalition wants to decrease violence while giving people opportunities, Headley said. By partnering with other agencies, it also hopes to improve housing and neighborhoods by replacing roofs, mowing lawns and fixing sidewalks. If that happens “we will make a difference outside of just violence,” he said. “We’ll be able to really enhance the quality of life in that neighborhood.”
Ultimately, teams of people will walk the streets after dark building relationships, talking to people at risk of violence and learning their needs. The number of team members will be based on the neighborhood size, Headley said. In Indianapolis, TenPoint walkers receive stipends of 12 per hour, the Star reported.
In Fort Wayne, Leroy Allison has signed up. His daughter Alonna was killed in crossfire between rival gangs in August 2015. Allison said he plans to walk with other coalition members after his shift at Dana ends at 11 p.m.
“We’re losing a whole generation of young black men to gun violence,” he said. “We need to curb this and put a stop to it altogether.”
Allison said he can relate to young men caught up in crime because he too was locked up at a young age. With supporting parents, he blamed it on “my own stupidity” but declined to offer details.
“I went the wrong road and my dad was there in my life,” he said. “For a lot of these kids today, it’s much faster than it was when I was growing up.”
Coalitions need ex-offenders who can relate to young men at risk of violence, Harrison said. Based on police intelligence, teams will concentrate on neighborhoods getting the most police runs, he said.
“It is very dangerous. That’s why we do training of these teams, because people are really risking their lives,” Harrison said. “And what the key is is you try to use people from these neighborhoods who are known in the neighborhood so it reduces the level of risk.”
Fort Wayne has not identified its target neighborhoods.
In Indianapolis, teams are made up of men, women and people of all races. What’s important is building relationships and people on the street knowing someone cares about them, Harrison said.
“And they tend not to care what color people are as long as there are caring people out there involved in their lives,” he said.