MARION COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – About 100 people gathered at the Nora-Northside community council to take a hard look at the challenges in Marion County on Thursday night. Police say gangs and drugs have been prevalent in Indianapolis, but a former gang member says the solution starts at home.
“It’s time for change and a lot of people don’t realize that you can change,” Juan Bennett said.
Bennett said he spent years as a member of an Indianapolis gang.
“Someone has to make a choice to feed their baby or, I’ll be honest, rob a bank. Black, white, Hispanic, everyone has fallen victim to that type of process,” Bennett said.
He says it’s a problem that’s tough for most people to understand, but some are trying to learn more.
“And I can tell you I’ve seen gang members stand outside middle school to solicit gang members,” Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said.
“Those are the ways most people think of gangs. They all wear the same color, they all hang out after school, if they go to school, and they do everything as a group. Well, Indianapolis is different,” IMPD Lt. Michael Elder said.
One thing both Bennett and Indy’s leaders agree on is that kids need a better support system at home.
“We have to deal with these social issues that are plaguing major cities throughout this nationwide and, let’s be honest, we live in a major city,” Riggs said.
But Bennett says there is a way out.
“It’s a conscious decision to just say and know the reality that it’s a dead end,” Bennett said.
Bennett is now working as a Christian rapper known as Royalty 317. He’s a father of three and wants those in gangs, especially young people, to know that they can turn their life around.