Reverend Charles Harrison knows gun violence all too well and is hoping to use the word of God to put a stop to the large number of homicides in Indianapolis. Harrison’s older brother was a victim of gun violence when Harrison was only 14 years old.
“I will never forget that night, when my parents received a phone call and learned that my brother had been killed,” Harrison said. “I heard a loud noise in the living room and saw my father on his knees, in anguish of news that his oldest son had died.”
Harrison said his older brother was shot by some of his friends over a dispute. Harrison said he found out about who had carried out the shooting before the police and was shocked to see the perpetrators at his brother’s wake, mourning with his parents. Harrison and his friends had been planning revenge when a few men in the church learned of his plans and talked him out of it.
“I remember that night, praying to God to help me move in another direction,” Harrison said. “The next morning, I decided to not carry out my plan.”
Harrison then went on to attend the University of Louisville and started working toward becoming a pastor. He eventually moved to Indianapolis to work in what were bad times for the city.
“In 1998, the city of Indianapolis experienced 162 homicides,” Harrison said. “There were gangs, drugs and prostitution.”
Then some pastors from Boston’s infamous Dorchester neighborhood came to Indianapolis to speak to the churches. They told of how the church had worked together with some of the gang leaders and drug traffickers to create 10 strategies to stop gun violence in Boston. That year Boston saw a major drop in gun violence.
“I said to myself, ‘If Boston did it, —and the church in Louisville helped me—what can we do for Indianapolis?’” Harrison said.
The ministers from Boston inspired the creation of the Ten Point Coalition in Indianapolis, a coalition of churches throughout the city set to fight violence and work toward building better and safer communities.
Harrison, with a few other parishes, started to push the church community out onto the streets with three primary goals in mind. These were to save children from violence, to provide troubled youth with job opportunities and to emphasize literacy and education. Harrison and members of the church started going out at night and walking the streets, spreading the word of God and suppressing violence.
“When we go out, we are looking for drug dealers, gang members and neighborhoods cliques,” Harrison said. “We want to steer them in the right direction.”
After just one year of these patrols in the streets of Indianapolis, the city saw a 40 percent reduction in criminal homicides. Other initiatives the coalition put into place included hiring ex-offenders to talk to troubled youth and creating afterschool programs for children to keep them off of the streets.
“One thing that I have found out is, [that] these guys are loyal to the streets, but the streets aren’t loyal to them,” Harrison said.
Sophomore criminal justice major Patrick Magee listened to Harrison’s many stories with admiration for his and his team’s bravery.
“Reverend Harrison is doing great things and helping a lot of people out,” Magee said. “Most people couldn’t do what he does on a nightly basis.”
Reverend Harrison stressed the need for the younger generation to step in and stop gun violence.
“We cannot do this without you,” Harrison said. “We need your energy. We need your voice. If you join in this effort, I believe that we can make this city a better place.”