Mom's mission: Stop violence in Indianapolis
It has been an Indianapolis mother's mission for a year now - help stop the violence that's plagued the city.
This isn't a mission Nicole MaGee chose. But after losing her son to murder, it's one she says she had to do. Her battle comes at a time when Indy's criminal homicides already stand at 70, nearly halfway through 2014.
Tuesday evening, in a parking lot on the city's west side, there were balloons and hugs. But this was not a celebration MaGee wanted to have.
She stood arm in arm with friends joined in prayer at the very spot where she lost her only son, 24-year-old Andre MaGee, was shot and killed one year ago, at 38th Street and Lafayette Road.
He was an innocent victim of gun violence.
"It's not fair. I look at everybody got a son but me," MaGee said through tears at her son's vigil. "This has got to stop. I've done a lot of crying. But doing this helps me heal and being an advocate and speaking to other people helps me heal."
Since her son's murder, Nicole's mission has been to change people's lives. She's attended nearly every community violence forum and event in the city. But she says there's much more work to do.
"We're worse than Gary. We're worse than Chicago. So yeah, it bothers me. It bothers me that another mother is going to have to do this next year," MaGee said.
Already this year, statistics from Indianapolis Metro Police show we've had 70 criminal homicides in Indianapolis. That compares to 56 at this time last year. IMPD has a clearance rate, or solve rate, of 73 percent.
But public safety leaders want the violent trend to stop.
"The number of homicides is not okay," said Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs. "That is 70 people who lost their life needlessly in our community."
For the second half of the year, Metro Police and the Department of Public Safety plan to boost programs for teens, single moms, and ex-offenders.
Also, police will target neighborhoods known for crime and criminals known for violence.
"They're going to do that again this summer. They're collapsing those areas a little bit, make them a bit smaller, but they're also starting to track those individuals who have a criminal history and those individuals we're gaining intel on that we think may pose a threat to our community," Riggs said.
They also want your help.
"Because at the end of the day, public safety is everyone's responsibility in our city," Riggs said.
Nicole and other moms who've experienced violence directly are issuing a call to action.
Brenda Hill lost her son to homicide last April.
"He was victim number 39 last year," Hill said. "When I hear the statistics daily, I kind-of just cringe. But now, it's 'What can I say? What can I do? How can I help?'"
They are moms using their grief to prevent more violence. But they hope more people join the fight.
"For me to help other mothers, other people, I feel good. It helps me to heal. It don't stop me from crying, but it helps me to heal," MaGee said.
Nicole MaGee is working on creating pamphlets with resources for families - lists of contacts for everything from kids' programs to job training opportunities.
Meanwhile, IMPD Chief Rick Hite plans to announce within the next two weeks, which areas of the city will be targeted by his officers this summer. Public safety leaders say they will be targeting neighborhoods and intersections, even more specific than the five zip codes which currently receive extra focus.