Posted on January 23, 2021

Violence Interrupters Hit Streets to Curb Indy’s Record Homicide Rate

Russ McQuaid, Fox 59, January 21, 2021

During the five years of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration, Indianapolis has spent in excess of $10 million in community crime prevention grants while struggling to find a solution to violence in the city.

Last year Indianapolis’ homicide total jumped to 245 violent deaths, a 40% increase over the year before, and if the first three weeks of 2021 are any indication, that rate has not slowed.

Desperate times call for innovative and even risky solutions.

“We should’ve started this maybe 20-30 years ago when we first started seeing the culture of violence change in our community,” said Community Violence Reduction Director Shonna Majors. “A culture and a generation takes time to reform.”

The City is betting $400,000 of its 2021 community crime prevention grant money on an aggressive and admittedly “dangerous” program to send so-called Interrupters into the homes of the most violent people in Indianapolis in an attempt to convince them to not retaliate in the wake of murders or shootings and perhaps even give up their guns and their violent lifestyles.

“We have kind of recruited some of the people that we know who are in the business and have the nerve because this is dangerous work and so we sometimes don’t know what we’re walking into, so these guys have stepped up to do that,” said Majors. “They have lived similar lives. They either used to be gang members or used to be drug dealers or used to be just in the life of violence themselves, went and served time and came back and have now adjusted their thinking to want to help those to be what they wish they had when they were going through those lifestyles to be able to transform.”

Six Interrupters, ex-felons or those familiar with violent crime, have been hired by the Indy Public Safety Foundation, the City’s partner in the project, to hit the streets both before and after violence goes down in an attempt to cool tempers and talk sense, sometimes greasing the conversation with cash, while trying to stem the flow of bloodshed.

“My job as an interrupter is to be in your community while your community is still normal and try to pluck you out and give you some information and some guidance and some game and show you the way and then push you back into your same community, don’t move up north, don’t move out nowhere, go back where you were and become a credible messenger and let’s try to change the communal norm,” said Shane Shepherd, who founded B4UFall, an organization devoted to mentoring youth and finding resources for ex-offenders. {snip}


Shepherd, who recruits former offenders to work at Recycle Force to establish a stable job history, often as a condition of their parole or probation, preaches self-reliance and a rejection of victimhood while attempting to show particularly young men caught up in a never-ending cycle of violence that there is a peaceful alternative of earning a living without ending up in prison or the cemetery.


OPHS also oversees the Indy Peace Fellowship which will attempt specific intensive intervention with the most violent people in Indianapolis.

“IMPD supplied us with a list of 65 people that are considered to be the most closely associated with the violence in our city,” said Majors. “We want to enroll at least thirty of those people in a very intense intentional program where they work together with their Interrupters, with the interventionists, and they will meet on a regular daily basis to keep the pulse on them, make sure that they’re not making bad decisions, so it’s kind of like a life coaching.”