Neighbors push education, not prisons to solve violence problem

"Youth Build Indy" helps dropouts earn their GED and learn job skills.
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What needs to be done to make streets and neighborhoods safer?

That question sparked surprising answers around the city. More police and more prisons was no one's first answer.

Dorothy Lilly has spent her life raising, teaching and caring for children. Now, she serves free summer lunches to neighborhood kids living near her near west side church. They are hungry for attention and a safe place to play. Dorothy wants programs that strengthen families.

"Help parents become better parents. Fathers become better fathers. Teach them to talk to their children," she said.

Brett Martin talks a lot to his children. We found them playing at Holiday Park. Although he has a hand,gun and a permit to carry it, Martin wants stricter gun control laws.

"Now we are establishing case after case were people are not making good decisions," he explained.

With guns?

"With guns," Martin answered.

Sharon Trigg has two small children. Instead of money for more prisons, she suggests "more community parks. More people involved with schools, growing up with their children."

In an east Indianapolis classroom across town, Diedra Copeland agreed.

"People need to stop giving up on us," she said.

The 22-year-old Copeland found Youth Build Indy. The program helps dropouts earn a GED and teaches job and other life-saving skills.

Angel Mims wishes she learned as a teenager.

"I don't need nobody to help me. I can do it myself, they don't give up on you," she said.

Programs like these succeed where prisons fail, insists Dominique Johnson. He and others have been there.

"Nine out of ten times, what they find on the streets, they end up dead in prison or they keep repeating the same cycle," he said with a quiet conviction.

IMPD Chief Rick Hite says locking up a juvenile costs $500-600 a day. He argues that money would be better invested in programs aimed at keeping kids out of trouble. Unfortunately, experts concede the impact of those programs wouldn't be seen for years in a community seeking immediate relief from the violence.