Mayor Ballard meets with gang leaders

The mayor met with gang leaders Thursday night.
On Thursday night you could say the Indiana Pacers game was one of only a few things Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard had on his mind.

In what may seem like an unlikely meeting, Mayor Ballard met with about half a dozen gang leaders at a private meeting. The meeting was held at Barnes church at 900 W. 30th St.

The meeting targeted a recent outbreak of violence in the 46218 ZIP code on Indianapolis east side.

The meeting lasted for more than an hour.

"What we're trying to do in our zip codes is interrupt violence," said Reverend Charles Harrison of the 10 Point Coalition.

Sometimes that can be as easy as a walk and a conversation.

"The message we're trying to share out here is that we care about you," he said.

Just across the street from his church, he's stopped youth and told them that.

"These are blighted areas, we see a lot of boarded up homes and trash on the ground and not a lot of economic development is taking place in those areas and it becomes breeding grounds for drug trafficking and criminal activity," he said.

That's one of the issues half a dozen gang leaders brought up to Mayor Ballard at a private meeting Thursday night.

"We had a conversation about what was causing the violence in the neighborhood and what they thought could be done to help reduce the violence," Harrison said.

Some key things were learned:  the gang members didn't graduate high school and they came from a broken home. One gang member shared his personal story with the mayor.

"The clique street gang he's a part of has become his family and that's who he's loyal to and that's the people he loves and considers his family. That was very touching and very sad," he explained.

The meeting identified the needs of education, a support system, cleaning up blighted areas, and jobs.

Mayor Ballard didn't comment on the meeting. His office said Friday that due to the private nature of the meeting, it's not their policy to talk about it.

Another forum is planned , with the goal to bust up as many gangs as possible.