‘We don’t talk about the black male homicide problem’

Coalition reacts to mayor candidates’ comments on fighting violence

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Leaders from the African American Coalition of Indianapolis say they’re concerned about the proportion of black homicide victims in the city.

Violent crime in the city was among the topics chosen by the coalition for mayoral candidates at a Monday night debate centered on issues facing members of the Indianapolis black community.

The coalition describes itself as collaboration of African-American civic, social, professional, service and community organizations with a goal “to educate and engage African Americans in the local, state and national political process.”

Officials with the coalition say the rising homicide numbers are a problem deeply centered in the black community. They hope the added perspective of a black agenda can help public safety leaders stop violence.

“We don’t talk about the black male homicide problem in this community,” said Marshawn Wolley, the coalition’s policy director.

Wolley wants to break up that silence.

“You can see a disproportionate kind of homicide rate, where you can have, last year, 103 black males get killed, and at the same time, have 21 white males murdered. Now one murder is too many, but to have almost five times as many murders is completely problematic,” said Wolley.

Wolley said he has seen enough of weekly murder scenes and hopes the creation of what the coalition calls a black agenda will help change that.

“It (a black agenda) is an effort to both look at our pain and our possibility, we want to look at our disparities,” Wolley said.

So far in 2019, there have been 127 homicides. IMPD has classified 116 of those as criminal homicides, and the other 11 as incidents that were determined to be self-defense.

Crime numbers

In 2018, IMPD had a 65% solve rate. So far in 2019, 56% of the year’s homicides have been solved, according to the police department.

Wolley said the majority of those numbers fall in his community, and he sees a root problem.

“The home ownership rates, the rent burdens, the food deserts are all putting the African American community in a situation where there’s a sense that you have to operate in a scarcity mode or a survival mode. That creates bad decisions that reduce the ability to handle conflict and shock,” said Wolley.

As Wolley and the coalition work to advocate for their community, he says talking about the disproportionate experience of violence is what could make a difference.

“We’re basically dying, both physically, economically and spiritually,” said Wolley.

Wolley said his coalition is always looking for groups to collaborate with, and they hope more community outreach will result in an Indianapolis where it’s safe to raise a black child or a black family.