Indianapolis Urban League

IUL Statement: Indianapolis Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Indiana

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February 25, 2020


Indianapolis, IN – The Indianapolis Urban League does not dispute the need for decisive action to counter the existential threat of gun violence in our community, but such actions must be based on broad and extensive community input and consensus. We remain committed to utilize our convening power and voice as an organization to assist all who are sincerely dedicated to addressing problems in our community but such efforts must be genuinely inclusive and representative of all who are stakeholders inclusive of victims, religious and civic organizations, non-profit service providers, mental health providers, employers, law enforcement, and business and political leadership.

Many of the strategies being pursued to address the on-going epidemic of violent crimes our city is experiencing are based upon a little known, federally designed, criminal intervention program called Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), established in 2001. Guidelines for PSN require the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana to work in partnership with the community, federal, state, and local law enforcement, and prosecutors in designing a comprehensive strategy to reduce violent crime.

Research indicates similar efforts in other cities (St. Louis, MO and Richmond, VA) did not succeed because of an overemphasis on incarceration and inadequate funding of non-criminal interventions.

While acknowledging violent and often repeat offenders should not be on our streets, and that they are a threat to peace and harmony in our community, we must also recognize what Columbia University Sociologist, Robert K. Merton called the Law of Unintended Consequences – that actions of people – and especially government – always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

The Indianapolis Urban League (IUL) firmly believes the Indianapolis community must be thoroughly educated on the objectives and penalties facing those who are prosecuted under PSN program. It is imperative the Black Community does not perceive this initiative as singling out members of the Indianapolis Black Community in light of the on-going reality of “Driving While Black”, racial profiling, and past practices such as “Stop and Frisk”.

Accordingly, we strongly encourage the U.S. Attorney to reach out to established community forums, such as the Race and Cultural Relations Leadership Network, the African-American Coalition of Indianapolis, and monthly community meetings of the NAACP and neighborhood grassroots-based organizations to outline details and share its strategies. The U.S. Attorney must also share statistical results since PSN has been implemented. Last year, the U.S. Attorney failed to adequately address these concerns. Hopefully he is better prepared and willing to explain how these tactics will be avoided in the on-going execution of PSN this year.

It is equally important that those prosecuted under the PSN program not be singled out because of where they live. Forty-eight percent of Black Marion County residents live in majority-Black neighborhoods according to the findings of five years of U.S. census data recently reported by The Indianapolis Star.  These predominantly Black Indianapolis neighborhoods should not be the sole focus of gun seizure efforts when illegal gun possession occurs throughout our entire city and region.

Further, as reported by Matthew Richmond in IDEASTREAM, “During fiscal year 2018, nationally, 7,500 people were sentenced to federal prison for crimes related to owning or selling a firearm. About 70% were black or Hispanic.” IUL further cautions that disproportionate surveillance and enforcement places legal firearms permit holders and gun owners at peril. Residents who live in areas where violent crimes have occurred and are being committed should not feel at risk of arrest or harassment. They have a Constitutional right to protect their lives, their families, and their property.

“Preventing violence requires changing behavior, not just prosecuting crime after it happens,” states Tony Mason, President & CEO, of the Indianapolis Urban League. “We need to be vigilant and guard against the unintended consequences and ripple effects of an enforcement only strategy that does not pay sufficient attention to the underlying causes driving this whirlwind of violence.”

Contact: Tony Mason
President & CEO, Indianapolis Urban League (317) 693-7603


About the Indianapolis Urban League
Founded in 1965, the Indianapolis Urban League (IUL) is a nonprofit, non-partisan, interracial, community-based, human services agency dedicated to assisting African-Americans, other minorities and disadvantaged individuals to achieve social and economic equality. Annually the IUL provides direct services and advocacy in the areas of: education and youth services, economic and workforce development, health and quality of life, civic engagement and leadership, and civil rights and racial justice empowerment. IUL is one of 90 affiliates of the National Urban League serving 300 communities in 36 states and the District of Columbia. For more information visit