Indianapolis residents don’t have to give up hope in the face of violence.
That is the message dozens of pastors and community leaders sent when they presented the Covenant with the Community, a call for real action against the violent crime that has devastated numerous families.
Leaders of the new City of Peace Coalition, an alliance of 10 churches and community service organizations, announced the covenant last week during an anti-violence rally outside Overcoming Church at 22nd and Columbia Avenue.
Minister Byron Alston, director of Save the Youth and a member of the coalition, reminded residents that they have the power to make peace a reality.
“It is up to us to save us,” Alston said. “We need to stand up and change our city. It is time for us to go back into the same communities that we tore up and clean them up.”
The Covenant with the Community is an agreement between faith leaders and residents to prevent violence before it happens. Action steps are outlined for both sides to take.
Under the agreement, church leaders and organizations pledge to provide positive activities and safe havens for youth, speak directly to those involved with (or at risk for) criminal activity, hold frequent “faith walks” to keep morale high in areas hit by violence and offer job training resources and social services.
Six outreach workers will be hired to walk the streets during odd hours several in areas of the city where crime has been problematic, including the Martindale-Brightwood, United Northwest, Haughville and Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhoods. The full-time workers are being paid with a $170,000 grant given to the Ten Point Coalition, a crime prevention organization that is part of the new peace alliance.
The workers will reach out to drug dealers, gang members and prostitutes to dissuade them from criminal activity and direct them to any services that will be helpful in turning their lives around. Youth who are at risk of being involved with gangs or drugs and wander the streets past curfew will be counseled to return to school if they dropped out.
Workers have been out since Saturday and are distinguished by their bright green jackets.
Also, under the agreement, residents are asked to take their own steps to stop crime.
African-Americans, particularly Black males, are called on to stop killing each other, be more responsible role models for children, stop glorifying “gangster images” and help eliminate the unlawful buying and selling of illegal firearms and drugs.
Parents are asked to issue curfews for youth and make education a priority in their household by encouraging children to stay in school. All residents are advised to get to know their neighbors, create crime watch groups, immediately report criminal activity and help identify and eliminate abandoned houses that attract illegal drug traffic.
The covenant will be displayed in churches, businesses and eventually online for everyone to read and sign.
Rev. Charles Ellis, director of the Ten Point Coalition, stated that citizens must play an active role in protecting their neighborhoods because the police department has limited manpower and cannot be everywhere at one time.
“This challenge is too big for the police to handle alone,” said Ellis. “Crime is everybody’s problem.”
Mayor Greg Ballard applauded the covenant as an important tool in making Indianapolis neighborhoods safer.
“I’m very proud of the work being done by our partners in the community,” said Ballard. “The covenant’s efforts are an outstanding step forward in our fight against crime and it is my hope that many others step forward as we work to keep peace in our streets.”
Some observers, however, might struggle with two important questions: Will the covenant actually work? What makes it different from past initiatives that were well-meaning but did not achieve their goals?
Pastor Bruce Farr of Overcoming Church, whose congregation hosted a praise concert in conjunction with the announcement, believes it will succeed because most people want to see crime reduced and Black-on-Black violence stopped.
“I don’t know how every person will respond, but if we get enough dedicated people on board we will be successful,” said Farr, who is also president of Community Resurrection Partnership (CRP), an alliance of churches in the Martindale-Brightwood area.
Rev. Charles Harrison of Barnes United Methodist Church says it’s going to take a group effort to see positive change.
“If we can get the community to buy into the covenant we will be able to change mindsets about things such as being more responsible fathers and better neighbors,” said Harrison, who encountered crime after being robbed near his church. “If we can build this up from the grassroots we can generate momentum in the community.”
Farr added that with this initiative, churches are already reaching out to people who are driven to criminal activity because of various circumstances. The churches gauge the needs of the individual and helps guide them to whatever form of assistance they need.
Churches, neighborhood associations, the police and citizens, Farr noted, are no longer trying to fight crime alone but are bringing their resources together under this covenant.
“It’s like an amphidous attack in the military where you attack the enemy from every angle – the land, air and sea,” said Farr. “Well, we’re attacking crime from all angles- with partnerships, with faith walks and with more support for our youth.”
Covenant with the CommunityWE, the members of the City of Peace Coalition, have come together to address violence and other critical issues in the community, and do hereby and solemnly enter into a covenant with Marion County;
Recognizing the purpose of this covenant is to renounce and reject the violence that has become all too familiar in our city;
Expectations of the covenant:WE, as a faith community, enter into this covenant with the community at large to play our part in making Marion County safer.
WE reject deviant behavior that preys upon the young, the elderly, and defenseless in our community;
WE urge all people of goodwill, honesty, dignity, nobility, peace, hope, and love to stand with us as we refuse to accept this kind of behavior;
WE recognize that reducing crime in our community is a challenge that will require community, businesses, government, law enforcement, and all sectors of the faith community working in partnership;
WE call on our community to enter into covenant agreement with us in order to help us reduce violence in Marion County;
WE, as a faith community, will provide:1. Safe havens for youth.
2. Employ street outreach workers to directly interface with those involved or potentially involved in criminal behavior.
3. Organize and facilitate faith walks to continually remind our community that there is hope and alternatives to violence.
4. A connection to those in need of employment, resources, and social services.
WE call on Black males and others 1. Ending the senseless killing of one another.
to join us in this covenant by:
2. Ending the phenomenon known as “deadbeat” dads.
3. Being responsible role models for their children.
4. Making a decision to be a positive on-going constructive presence in the lives of their children.
5. Working to eliminate the unlawful buying, selling, and use of firearms.
6. Putting an end to the glorification of gangster images.
7. Cease the unlawful buying, selling, and distribution of drugs in the community.
WE call on individuals in neighborhoods 1. Getting to know your neighbors.
to partner with us by:
2. Joining, participate in and/or establishing crime/neighborhood watch teams.
3. Reporting crimes and criminal activity that take place in the neighborhood.
4. Join in the effort to eradicate abandon homes, drug house and dark streets.
WE call on parents and families 1. Establishing a curfew for your children.
to join us in this covenant by:
2. Making education a priority by encouraging children to stay in school.
3. Becoming aware of your child’s friends and activities.
4. Promoting and modeling abstinence and rejecting a culture of promiscuity; teen and unwed pregnancies.
5. Removing the images and glorification of gangster life in the household.
6. Making sure our children are safe and nurtured.
Mutual Agreement:Finally, we call on the citizens of Marion County to join us in this covenant by signing below in their pledge and commitment to help to reduce crime, safeguard our children and help make our communities safer through an increased awareness, involvement and respect for each other.