COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — As Columbus continues to look at ways to fight back against deadly violence, the City of Indianapolis, one of several cities in the Midwest, is where grassroots crime prevention efforts are starting to make a difference.
“When you hear gunshots, you actually think it’s firecrackers out there, not realizing it’s gunshots until you see the ambulance,” said Rena Allen, a community faith organizer, who has been working to end gun violence in Indianapolis, for the past several years.
It was constant murders every time you turn around, you were attending funerals.”
It’s been a rocky year for Columbus, as city homicides in 2023 already outpacing the number of murders for the same time in 2022.
ABC 6 On Your Side looking at what other cities are doing to keep streets safe.
Columbus and Indianapolis are similar in size and both are among the 15 largest cities in the United States.
In 2021 Columbus had a population of 906,528 while Indianapolis was a little smaller with a population of 882,039.
Both cities are battling gun violence in their streets.
Columbus’ homicide numbers were down nearly a third in 2022.
A different story for the first four months of this year, where Columbus recorded 56 homicides; that’s a 26% increase in homicides compared to the same time in 2022.
Indianapolis, during the same time in 2023, saw 65 homicides.
While Indianapolis had more homicides than Columbus during that same time, the city saw a decrease in homicides by 13.3%.
ABC 6/FOX 28 spent several days in Indianapolis, talking with neighbors, clergy, and community leaders, after they saw a drop in gun violence, following the creation of an anti-violence strategy that demanded action and accountability from city leaders.
“The violence in the city had record levels for the last ten years,” said Rosie Bryant, who was one of the first to push for action from City Hall to eliminate the gun violence, “we decided we no longer wanted our community to be like that.”
Bryant tells ABC 6, cities looking to reduce gun violence need to be on the same page with neighbors, clergy, and community leaders.
“My suggestion is to get organized, and organize your community, and get leaders and clergy to lead this movement,” Bryant said.
“It’s a strategy that is definitely working,” Allen said.
Despite the reduction in gun violence, deadly shootings are still plaguing Indianapolis.
Secoya Williams,25, was shot and killed last year in a club while watching a friend perform, just days after her birthday.
“For me as a mother, to lose my only daughter and a parent of two, it’s never going to go away,” Marilyn Johnson, Williams’ mother, said.
Johnson is now part of the fight to stop the bloodshed in Indianapolis.
If I can save another parent from losing a kid to gun violence or losing a child to gun violence, that’s my goal.”
The anti-violence advocates for the past several years have been working with a California consultant to focus efforts on a small group of people believed to be driving the violence in Indianapolis.
ABC 6/FOX 28 cameras were there when a group of front-line workers, hired to serve as life coaches, were trained to work with people who are most at risk of committing violence or becoming a victim of gun violence.
“They have credibility with people they are serving because they are from the neighborhoods, they have similar experience as the people they are serving, they are absolutely essential to reducing crime,” Director of the National Institute For Criminal Justice Reform, David Muhammad, said.
Many of Indianapolis’ gun reduction programs are similar to Columbus’ anti-violence initiatives that include projects to keep kids off the streets and help newly released inmates transition back into society.
“Faith In Indiana,” says what sets them apart from other city efforts is the working partnership it has with the mayor’s office to develop city-wide strategies to reduce gun violence.
“That’s one of the things we are able to do,” Allen said, “hold our city officials accountable.”
“Having this partnership is something unique,” Tony Lopez, with the Indianapolis Office of Violence Reduction, said. “It is working really well.”
A partnership between city and community organizers is the key to keeping streets safe.
“You got to stay on it,” Johnson said, “you got to keep open lines of communication, you got to keep talking, you cannot give up.”