INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new program is set to ramp up in Indianapolis with a goal of addressing the recent rise in violent crime in the city.
Shane Shepherd, 42, knows the streets of Indianapolis. The city is his home and he’s spent the last five years helping turn people away from potential violence.
“We want to catch you before you end up in the justice system because, truth be told, some people are destined for that, because there’s no turning them. We want to turn the turnable ones,” said Shepherd, who is a “violence interrupter” and chief executive officer of the nonprofit B4ufall.
He’s one of six people the city is training right now to become “violence interrupters.” They’re contracted by the nonprofit Indy Public Safety Foundation.
The people being trained have life experiences. They’ve spent years building reputations in the streets and earning respect. They can relate, in some way, to at-risk teens and young adults in Indianapolis.
The city is looking to build relationships with the highest at-risk residents and transform their lives.
“And get one-on-one with them and understand where they’re at currently, where they want to go and help them get there in a positive, pro-social way and learn how to stop using guns as a way to quell a conflict that they have with someone,” said Shonna Majors, director of community violence reduction for the city government.
Though crime is down in Indy, criminal homicides spiked almost 40% in 2020, compared to 2019.
“We are seeing more and more people turning to violence when confronted with conflict. We know our community is frustrated and disappointed with the level of violence we have seen in our city this year,” said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Randal Taylor earlier this week during a virtual press conference. “Our officers are frustrated and disappointed as well.”
The work can be dangerous, but Shepherd says it’s vital.
“Say I show up and you’ve been having a situation with your baby mama. She put you out twice and I know this. That’s where I come in and say ‘Check this out, you know I can help get you a place to stay. I’m coming, giving something, in order to give you more.’ So, it’s almost like you have to figure out the psyche of the individual you’re dealing with, then you have to play whatever card shows up in your mental deck,” Shepherd said.
Majors said the work of the “interrupters” has already saved lives, and believes more people will be saved. Majors also said she expects their work to formally begin next week.
Majors wants to grow the team of interrupters. She said they are constantly looking for funding from private donations and from grants, to be able to expand the team.