Minister says Indianapolis teen violence at tipping point

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With the recent wave of teen violence, some community leaders worry Indianapolis is near the tipping point.

The Rev. Charles Harrison, who heads the Ten Point Coalition, warns, "if we don't get a handle on this we could have a very violent summer."

Harrison, who has worked with at-risk teens for 15 years, doesn't like what he's seeing.

"These kids are dealing with conflict, argument and fights by using deadly force now," he said.

While crime data from IMPD shows that 48% of all homicides between 2007 and 2012 occurred within five zip codes (46218, 46201, 46208, 46205, 46222), Harrison notes that teen crime is spreading to downtown and beyond.

He points to the shooting last month near Circle Center Mall and last week's deadly crime spree involving a 15-year-old and 17-year-old, which ended in a high-speed chase and crash.

"Basically, the Post Road kids are coming downtown and they're bringing their guns and they also went to Broad Ripple (last summer,)" he said. "so, what's going on in those (high-crime) neighborhoods will eventually affect not just the Indianapolis community, but the donut counties, too, because these kids are going to move."

Diondre Sanders agrees.

"All I can say is the devil is busy right now. God is busy too, but the material stuff is getting to people," he said.

Sanders knows the street life well.

"I was robbing, I was stealing, selling drugs, doing all this," he said.

In October, he finished a two-year sentence for robbery. While in prison, he was stabbed and a month after getting out, he took a bullet in the neck during an argument. He said it's not the life he wants.

"I want to bury my parents, I don't want my parents to bury me," Sanders said. "I just don't want to die by the gun. I want to die of old age with my grandchildren around the bed."

Sanders said he's turned to God and family for support. He wants to get his GED and enroll in the Chef's Academy. Sharing some drawings he did recently, it's clear he also has an artistic gift.

Like Harrison, he believes keeping the peace can't be left to police alone.

"I think we need more programs going on, more to keep people occupied when they're out of school," he said, adding parents also have to be involved. "If parents aren't teaching (their kids) how to come up, who they going to go to? And if they don't have uncles and role models to look up to, nothing's going to change."

Harrison said what's become a community problem needs a community solution, one that includes outreach, mentoring, family counseling, jobs and safe havens for kids.

"We can't jail ourselves out of this," he said. "If we fill up the jails, we won't deter it... We need to force the politicians to come up with a compelling plan to address (teen violence)."

Sanders is hoping to do his part as well by speaking out.

"I think God is using me because I'm related to all this stuff going on in the neighborhoods and the environment, and if they see me making a change, they may be, like, 'If Diondre can make a change, I can make a change'."