Chicago's "Interrupters" summoned to help diffuse Indianapolis crime

"The Interrupters" are a Chicago-based crime fighting group that was featured in a PBS documentary.
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The recent crime wave and rash of murders in Indianapolis is inspiring people to make a difference in a brand new way.

They want to stop violent crime, well before it happens, by diffusing conflict in the streets. Many more church and community groups have now joined the fight against violence.

One of the new tactics is actually from a Chicago organization, featured in a documentary. They're called "The Interrupters" and next month they're coming here to train neighbors.

Regina Marsh is bringing the group to Indianapolis. For years, she's worked tirelessly to help Indy youth, as the CEO of the Forest Manor Multi-Services Center.

But escalating violence recently hit close to home. That's when Marsh knew she had to something more.

"One of the murders in the Hawthorne Apartments at 34th and Emerson was a child that was once involved here at Forest Manor," Marsh explained. "On top of that, there were seven murders in a row during that time period and four of those had some type of role here at Forest Manor at one time or another. Our babies, our children are dying. And it really kind of set me for a loop last summer."

She's now spearheading a city-wide crime prevention plan. It includes police, prosecutors, church and community groups.

Marsh has watched and applauded the important work by the Ten Point Coalition to diffuse tension and stop retaliation after a murder.

She wants to see that continue, but her plan also includes something new, from a famous documentary, a Chicago-based anti-violence group, featured in the 2011 documentary "The Interrupters."

The members, many of whom come from difficult or criminal backgrounds themselves, hit the streets to intervene in conflicts and prevent crime.

"They teach how to be interventionists, how to interrupt crime before it gets to that point," Marsh explained.

Next month, she's invited Ameena Matthews, an Interrupter and ex-gang member, to teach Indianapolis neighbors, even reformed criminals here, how go out in neighborhoods and interrupt violence.

"She's going to do a training with her group on how to be interventionists, how to intervene into issues before they escalate into murder, other battery or other crimes," Marsh explained. "We are looking to her to help train us. We want to be there before crime happens.

Ex-felons, she says, often have the best success, because their personal histories give them credibility on the streets.

"They may say, 'I can't do this, because I've got a felony.' No, this is one time where that makes no difference. If anything, you move to the front of the bus. We want folks that have been rehabilitated and paid their debt to society who now want to prevent that next man or woman from being in the same situation," Marsh said. "We need those - as we call them - 'soldiers' out there with us on the streets."

Marsh hopes all neighbors come to the training session in March. She says the more people who know how to diffuse conflict, the more impact they'll have on Indy's violent crime trend.

"It has been my cry. It has been my...'I can't do this by myself.' The Ten Point can't do this by themselves. We've got to have more people taking an active role in what's going on in our community," Marsh said.

More people are.

Pastor Royce Fields from the Bethesda Temple Apostolic Church is part of a yet another faith-based team now going out in the community to help troubled youth. They've started clubs for teens and hope to take a message of morality out of the church and into the streets.

"The problem is bigger than any one church group," Fields said. "It's a much larger problem, which is why it's absolutely essential that we work together."

Faith leaders and now even ex-felons are all trying to bring peace back to Indy. It's something Regina Marsh hopes, in the end, keeps the kids she cares for at Forest Manor safe.

The Interrupters group from Chicago will be here to train neighbors on March 25. Anyone is invited and encouraged to attend and learn the skills needed to intervene before conflict turns to crime.

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Charles A. Tindley Charter School, 3960 Meadows Drive.