INDIANAPOLIS – IMPD Police Chief Rick Hite hopes Wednesday’s massive warrant sweep pushes gang members to leave their life of crime behind, while others hope it encourages youth to avoid that path all together.
On the wall at the Great Commission Church of God, Reverend Malachi Walker looks proudly at a photo of the example he wants to set for today’s black youth,
“Getting them at a young age is very, very important,” he said, after identifying that many of the boys in the picture were eight, nine, or 10 years old.
They’re part of Young Men Inc., an organization dedicated to helping at risk children avoid life on the streets.
“90 percent of them are from single-parent homes where a mother or aunt is raising them and lot of the boys have brothers who have probably been in trouble,” he said,
Every summer, Young Men Inc. hosts an anti-gang workshop. Walker said they teach the boys how to spot gang members by their clothing, how to act if a member approaches them and tries to get them to join, and the consequences of becoming a member which are often death or time behind bars.
By educating them, he hopes they don’t become the next statistic, much like the dozens of men arrested early Wednesday morning.
That’s when several law enforcement agencies executed “Operation Smoke Show,” an effort targeted at catching criminals, many of whom were members of the “Block Burners” gang. 35 people were arrested during the warrant sweep.
“It’s mind-boggling to really try to figure out what made them want to go down that road,” he said looking at several of their mugshots.
Chief Hite said many of the people arrested today had chances in the past year to stop their dangerous lifestyle. He said detectives warned the suspects.
“(The detectives) give them opportunities to end it, turn their lives around, get out of the game and they didn’t take it seriously,” he said.
Chief Hite wanted gang members to know that is there is a way out. He suggested they call churches in town to do a “safe surrender,” allowing them to learn about programs that could help them start over.
“We’re sending a message for the last time, today is the day to turn your life around. Change your life means saving your life,” said Chief Hite.
And by saving their lives they could possibly save others.
“It’ll be tough but you know, it can happen. Somebody is going to give you that chance,” said Walker.
Walker encourages parents, relatives, or guardians to sign their young boys up for Young Men Inc. if they’re worried the boys are at risk. He said they’re also always looking for volunteers to become mentors for the youth.
For more information about Young Men Inc., click here.