Anti-crime plan focusing on grass-roots prevention
A wave of violence is still sweeping over Indianapolis and community leaders say neighbors fighting crime could be the key to stopping it.
Tuesday night, neighbors learned how to stop crime before it starts from a woman who's been doing that for years in Chicago.
Ameena Matthews, of Chicago's CeaseFire Project, trained people in Indianapolis how to go into neighborhoods and literally interrupt violence.
When community leaders asked the crowd gathered at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School "Who here has been affected by violence?" nearly every hand went up.
Nicole MaGee raised her hand first. Among those dozens of neighbors eager to fight crime, MaGee may be the most passionate.
And it's for the worst reason possible.
"I didn't sign up for this. This is not what I wanted to be. But now that I'm forced into it, I'm ready to fight," MaGee said.
Her son, Andre Antwion MaGee, was murdered last June, an innocent bystander, who was shot and killed at age 24.
"I was robbed. I was cheated of my only son, my first born," MaGee said. "I don't want the next parent to go through what I went through."
That's why when she heard about Ameena Matthew's training session, she had to go. Matthews is a community activist from Chicago. Her work on the streets, calming crime, was featured in the award-winning documentary, "The Interrupters".
Matthews was invited to teach neighbors in Indianapolis how to become violence interrupters too.
"I want to be the interrupter. I want to get these people in. I need to do it," MaGee said.
The idea is for regular people to go into Indy's most dangerous neighborhoods and literally interrupt violence. They talk to youth, find out the problems, prevent conflict and connect young people with organizations that can help with jobs, school and positive activities.
The hope is to target the five most dangerous ZIP codes in Indianapolis, which are responsible for 48 percent of all the city's criminal homicides: 46218, 46201, 46208, 46205, and 46222.
"If we don't get the right people to work on the front end and be great violence interrupters here in Indianapolis, it's not gonna work, so that's really what I'm looking for," Matthews explained. "Look for the guys and the females that have been there and done that, that can speak the language of the young guys, even though they're adults, but can get in and cause a young guy to stop for a second and pause."
Matthews recommends four interrupters for each neighborhood or district. Nicole MaGee is determined to be one of them.
"I'm not scared. What can they tell me? Either yes or no. And if they tell me no, I'll come back again. I'll keep coming back," MaGee said. "If we get out there in those ZIP codes, those five red ZIP codes and be a voice, say, 'I'm here to save you. Save our brown babies. Save our white babies. Save our light-skinned. Save anyone.'"
MaGee says it's a personal mission now, to work through her grief and help others. She couldn't save her son from violence, but now that's exactly what she hopes to interrupt.
"I'm gonna continue to fight so that we can take our streets of Indianapolis back," MaGee said.
If you'd like to become a violence interrupter or just help area youth stay safe in another way, contact the Forest Manor Multi-Service Center. Community leaders there are the driving force behind a new crime prevention plan for the city of Indianapolis.