The recent in-custody death of Herman Whitfield III and killing of funeral home director James Dixon III have left many Black residents on edge with concerns of violence in the city, even though homicides in Indianapolis are down compared to the same time last year.
“It affects all of us, whether we’re minding our own business, and I think that’s the greatest concern of us all,” Calvin Allen Jr., pastor of New Light Missionary Baptist Church, said at a vigil for Dixon on Aug. 10.
As of Aug. 22, there have been 133 murders in the city, almost 18% fewer than the same time last year, and nonfatal shooting incidents were down 11% compared to last year, according to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD).
Doris Minton McNeill, president of the West Side Neighborhood Association, lives down the street from where Dixon was killed.
“I think people are numb and in disbelief,” she said. “This random act of violence could have been anyone coming out of their house.”
She along with many city officials, including IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, attended Dixon’s vigil and addressed violence in the city.
“We’ve had vigils, we’ve had pray-ins, we’ve had services; unfortunately, the violence continues,” Taylor said. “Brothers and sisters, we do have to do something about this.”
The Brennan Center for Justice identified gun violence and socioeconomic instability as two contributing factors to the nationwide increase in crime, particularly violent crime, during the pandemic.
Nationally, the murder rate increased by nearly 30% in 2020, according to the center, and aggravated assault increased by about 12%. Violent crime overall was up 5.2%.
The center noted there are a multitude of factors for why crime rates increased over the course of the pandemic, and it is hard to identify what impacts the rates. This means it is hard to determine the best course of action for officials and communities to take to decrease crime nationally and locally.
Anthony Beverly, director of Stop the Violence Indianapolis, believes decreasing violence locally begins and ends with unity among communities.
“It starts with reestablishing community values, and part of our community values have to be around how do we love one another even though we know we are going to have conflict,” he said.
Stop the Violence is an organization that serves youth and their families by having different programs to help reduce the rates that youth commit crime. For people who have been in the judicial system, Stop the Violence teaches them how to navigate life after being in the system to lower the recidivism rate.
The organization will continue working with youth and families and partnering with other similar organizations to do their part in reducing crime. Belverly said it will take city officials, the government and the community working together to truly solve the issue.
“I think we have everything we need in the city to cut the violence in half. It just comes down to having the will to do it,” Beverly said. “That’s across the board.”
Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243 or by email AbrianaH@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @Abri_onyai. Herron is a Report for America corps member and writes about the role of Black churches in the community.