DPS, clergy host safe havens over winter break

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools students are out of school for the next two weeks and public safety officials say when schools are out, crime rates tend to rise.

In an attempt to control crime over the holidays, the Department of Public Safety and some religious leaders are holding two “safe haven” events.

This approach was first used about five years ago and officials say they helped reduce crime.

“There are no places for the kids to go so the kids then hang out in the streets,” said Rev. Charles Harrison, director of the Ten Point Coalition and pastor at the Barnes United Methodist Church on West 30th Street, which is hosting one of the safe haven events. The other is at John Marshall High School on East 38th Street.

“We want you to come in the spirit of peace, have a good time, bring your friends, fellowship with one another, have fun break bread but we want to go back home the way we came in peace also,” said IMPD Chief Rick Hite.

The events are geared towards high school-aged kids. They’ll be able to play basketball, dance, eat, and enjoy each other’s company.

“This is our attempt to continue the conversation with young people,” said Chief Hite.

The areas where the safe havens are being held are among the areas the city says is responsible for 27 percent of the city’s crime. The areas are only 8 square miles of the city’s 400 square miles.

“It’ll give the kids something to do that’s helpful and productive without them getting in any legal trouble,” said Heidi Smith while walking down East 42nd Street.

“One of things we wanted to do immediately was to focus on young people,” said Troy Riggs, Director of the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety.

“Particularly in the past couple of years we had some trouble while the kids were out of school, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, so we decided we’re going to do it this year,” said Rev. Harrison.

The city stopped funding the program in 2010, and the church raised $5,000 to fund Friday night’s events.

“We’re not trying to reinvent any wheel, we just want to take these programs that work so well, how can we find additional funding and continue funding in these areas for them,” said Riggs.

Some 500 kids are expected between the two locations. IMPD and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office will be on patrol.

Two more safe havens will be held next Friday as well, at the Friendship Baptist Church on the west side, and the Fervent Prayer Church on the east side.

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