INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)–“Original gangster” is not the first phrase that comes to mind when you meet Leroy Smith. He’s an active member of his church who works for a call center on Indianapolis’ far north side.
But there are people — from Gary, Ind. to east Indianapolis — who used to know a different Leroy Smith.
“They considered me an OG (original gangster),” Smith said. “I was into gangs, drugs, you name it.”
Smith turned his life around years ago with the help of a strong support network: church leaders and friends who extended a helping hand.
He heard recently that the Ten Point Coalition was looking for reformed criminals to work in his old neighborhood near 42nd and Post for the anti-crime group’s east side expansion.
Next month, Smith and about seven other Ten Point members will start walking the streets, connecting with young people and trying to steer them away from crime. Ten Point leader Charles Harrison described the east side group as “original gangsters” at a Tuesday morning news conference.
“They’ll listen to me because I listen to them,” Smith said. “Because I’d rather spend some time with them and to go get to know who they are.”
A shooting in the neighborhood last month left a 16-year-old in critical condition. Last summer, police said someone murdered a 19-year-old at 42nd and Mitthoeffer.
Ten Point leaders said their east side expansion is possible because of a $50,000 grant from the state announced this week.
“I’m excited to see the change that is going to come,” Smith said.
Change is something Smith knows well. He says he’s living proof of it.
“If we can give them that hope. Just that hope alone. It can change a whole destination for them.”