By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — Growing up on the west side of Indianapolis, Darryl Jones could either be found on the streets getting into trouble or in jail.
“Once upon a time, I was one of these kids, never doing the right things,” Jones said. “So I want to help.”
Jones can still be found on the streets, but now as a member of the Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based organization with a goal to help reduce youth gun violence through a collaborative partnership between the community plagued by violence and law enforcement.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions shakes hands with members of the Indiana Ten Point Coalition. Sessions traveled to Indiana to discuss how to stop neighborhood crime. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
On Monday, Jones walked the area around Barnes United Methodist Church, located off West 30th Street with two special guests – Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The group marched after a joint meeting among Hill, Sessions, law enforcement and pastors to discuss community safety and efforts to combat violent crimes.
“We will not leave anyone behind, safety cannot be for the few,” Sessions said. “Some people think it’s all hopeless, but I don’t think that’s true. We can impact crime.”
The homicide rate in Indianapolis has increased 40 percent in five years. The coalition, joined by Sessions, wants to focus on helping people get education and jobs, rather than solely putting them in jail where they don’t learn life lessons.
“Our goal is to not to see how many people we can put in prison, our goal is for less crime,” Sessions said.
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill talks with members of the Ten Point Coalition Monday. He and the U.S. Attorney General marched with the group to show support of its efforts. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
“Locking people up isn’t the answer,” Jones said. “Because people go to jail and feel like no one cares about them and so they need someone who can talk with them and help them instead.”
On Monday, Sessions unveiled a Violent Crime Reduction Coordinating Committee that will help groups, like the Ten Point Coalition, combat crime by being positive influences. That follows Hill’s announcement in August that he would award $500,000 to organizations in Indiana that replicate the methods of the Ten Point Coalition.
“It’s a noble and high calling to work against violence in our communities,” Sessions said.
As of Monday in Indianapolis, there have been 126 homicides—more than last year at this time. The Indiana Ten Point Coalition has helped reduce homicides by 85 percent in Butler-Tarkington, Crown-Hill and the United Northwest Area — and Sessions applauded the group for its efforts.
Jones and other members of the coalition were pleased with Sessions’ willingness to visit the Hoosier state.
“My heart is in this and I’m concerned about their [the kids’] well being,” Jones said. “We do good work and I’m glad the attorney general will hopefully be able to show other parts of the country our work.”
Rev. Charles Harrison, president of Indiana Ten Point Coalition, addresses the media after meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Media was not allowed to stay for the converstaion. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
Sessions has been at the center of controversy during his tenure as attorney general. The National Urban League, among other organizations, has criticized Sessions for having “close ties to extremist, white nationalist organizations.” Sessions has denied those allegations.
He has also become entangled in the investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Sessions, who served an advisory role to the Trump campaign, denied any contact with Russia, but was later found to have met with the Russian ambassador during that period.
But those who had a seat at Monday’s meeting were pleased they had a chance to meet with Sessions, which was held in private. Media were only permitted inside the room for short remarks prior to the meeting.
Rev. Charles Harrison, president of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, said the conversation was productive. He said his group shared data and research about the role faith communities and law enforcement can play in areas with high rates of violent crime.
“We have built relationships for individuals on the streets with the law enforcement community,” Harrison said. “There was a lot of support from the faith community for this, too.”
The conversation came the same day Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach recommended firing the two officers who shot and killed Aaron Bailey in June. The killing and subsequent decision not to file criminal charges triggered some protests in Indianapolis.
In recommending the officers be fired, IMPD said in a news release, “We will only use deadly force when necessary to protect the life of a citizen or officer and when other options are not reasonably available.”
When asked about the development at a news conference following the closed-door meeting, the group did not directly respond.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.