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How cities are trying to stop gun violence

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Posted at 8:17 AM, Sep 23, 2022

Many communities are trying to figure out not just why gun violence happens, but how to stop it.

Some cities are taking multiple approaches to find an answer and looking at issues that may not seem, at first, related to gun violence.

Shardae Hoskins grew up on Indianapolis' East Side.

“If you ask anybody from here, they typically avoid the area," she said. "It's kind of known for being a high violent area.”

Hoskins said she started losing classmates to gun violence when she was in high school.

"When you’re not from where these individuals are from, like the far East Side, it seems like, just stop shooting people, it seems that easy, but it’s really that easy," she said. "That's how these individuals are taking care of their family. It’s how they’re feeding their kids.”

Like many cities, Indianapolis saw a jump in violent crime during the pandemic. In 2020, the murder rate was three times higher than the national average.

The city is spending a large portion of the $237 million it received from the federal stimulus package on reducing gun violence.

“Our goal is non-policing, it’s more so getting at the root causes," said Lauren Rodriguez, the director of Indianapolis' Office of Public Health and Safety.

Much of the city's violence reduction plan focuses on what can lead to a shooting, long before a trigger is pulled.

"You’re going to continue this pattern that could lead to violent crime. You’re going to steal the food, you’re going to steal the diapers, I've seen it, used to be a public defender," Rodriguez said. "Then you’re going to have those things on your record. Then it’s harder for you to get jobs. Then you need money. What are you going to do?"

The city created a program to give grants to grassroots organizations that help with issues like food insecurity and job training.

"What the strategy tells us is that there is a small number of people in any area driving violence and what it helps us do is focus on the individuals that are driving the violence," said Hoskins.

Hoskins helps lead a team of “violence interrupters,” a strategy several cities are using nationwide. They hire people from neighborhoods, hit hard by gun violence, to calm tensions between rival groups and at crime scenes.

"On scenes, that's where I found I can be most helpful, is a liaison between the family and the police because, you know, the community has their own perception of the police," Hoskins says.

Thomas Stucky is a former member of law enforcement who is now a criminal justice professor at IUPUI in Indianapolis.

“I think nationally we need to do a far better job of working on what I would call primary prevention. The kinds of things that don’t seem like gun violence prevention strategies but in fact, in the long run, would reduce gun violence," Stucky said. “We have more individuals who are willing to use violence to resolve disputes, so we need to be thinking as a society to create more conflict resolution mechanisms.”

Stucky doesn't believe there is a quick fix for the problem of gun violence.

“The reality is 20 years from now the homicide rate will be a function of what we do right now,” Stucky said.

So far in 2022, violent crime is down in Indianapolis. It's a step in the right direction, but to Hoskins, the work is far from over for her community.

"The far East Side, there is hope,” Hoskins said. "Really man we’re people who were dealt a bad hand and trying to do the best that we can.”