After 16 Indy teens killed in 2017, mentors work to reduce youth violence

Mentoring conference.(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Sixteen teenagers have been killed this year in Indianapolis.

As the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department continues to investigate the most recent death — of 15-year-old Kevin Rainey — a group of people are hard at work trying to prevent violence and crime among Indy’s teens by giving them other options.

There are various mentoring groups for teens across the city, but on Saturday they all came together. More than 300 young men spent their day at Warren Central High School taking part in a mentoring conference. The goal was to provide these teens with positive role models and talk to them about issues they face on a day-to-day basis.

Judge Geoffrey Gaither helped organized the event. He says more and more young people and families are treating juvenile court like a revolving door, so he knew he had to do something.

Gaither says he wanted to focus on mentoring because relationships with positive role models is what helps direct these teens down the right path.

“We just had a tragic incident this morning, we’ve had some over the past weekend, and I’m really sick of it. We just need to do something different. What we’ve been doing in the past clearly isn’t working,” said Gaither. “Programs don’t work, but what works is people. The connection between the individuals. It is not the program, but the program creates the opportunity for people to meet and interact.”

Teens at the program say they see some of their peers going down the wrong path.

“I think a mentor is perfect, especially in these days and times because a lot of violence, it is really getting out of hand, especially in our younger age,” said Dai’Jon Smith after attending the conference.

“Every time you turn on the news, a 13-year-old, 12-year-old, 13-year-old, 14-year-old, 15-year-old is just getting killed over nothing,” said Jeremiah Robertson, another teen at the event.

These efforts aren’t just geared toward young men. A similar event will be held for young women next weekend at Warren Central High School.