As part of a community-focused anti-violence strategy, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has introduced James Wilson and Robert Fry as the first two Indy Peacemakers. The men will provide day-to-day operational and capacity-building assistance to community groups engaged in violence prevention. They will serve under the guidance of Shonna Majors, who was hired last month to serve as the city’s first director of community violence reduction.
Wilson is a native of the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood and learned tough lessons at a young age, serving time in the correctional system for his involvement in the drug trade, violence and other criminal activity. Following his release from prison, he has dedicated his life to creating a more positive and productive future for his children, and all children in our city. Wilson founded and served as executive director for Circle Up Indy, an organization focused on economics, education, employment, mentorship and health services for youth and families in the Martindale-Brightwood community and beyond.
Fry grew up in some of Indianapolis’ most challenging neighborhoods and turned to street activities as a means to support himself. At an early age, he experienced the trauma of losing his best friend to gun violence and resolved to leave the streets behind, completing his education and building the skills to help others in our community better their situations. Prior to this position, Fry served with a variety of social service groups including the Indianapolis Housing Agency, the Indiana Developmental Training Center and Exodus Refugee.
The hiring of the Indy Peacemakers follows the roll out of Mayor Hogsett’s comprehensive violence reduction strategy last December. The strategy calls for actions that are focused on disrupting the spread of violence and fostering positive community engagement, including:
• a crackdown on the illegal possession of guns by violent criminals.
• investments in neighborhood-level interventions.
• expanded access to wrap-around social services for those most in need.
This community-focused strategy is part of Mayor Hogsett’s ongoing efforts to overhaul the Indianapolis criminal justice system. In 2016, Mayor Hogsett abolished the bureaucratic Department of Public Safety, pledged to hire a net gain of 150 police officers, increased Crime Prevention funding by 25%, and began returning the city to the neighborhood-based “beat policing” model that was abandoned in 2013 after a hiring freeze saw IMPD lose roughly 10% of its operational force.