FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – At this time last year, the homicide count in Fort Wayne was 28. As of August 11, 2014, the city’s homicide count stands at 7. City leaders said they are committed to keeping that number low. In a meeting last Friday, Mayor Tom Henry teamed up with the state Commission on the Social Status of Black Males in order to support four initiatives aimed at decreasing violence and increasing achievement among local African American men. It’s still not clear just what the initiatives will look like, but they’ll focus on helping African-American men lead productive lives and overcome some common hurdles.
“Every time you turn around, there’s like robbings, killings, stealings,” said A. Martina, who recently moved to Fort Wayne. “People trying to eat. Trying to live.” Martina is from Chicago and said the problems people faced there that kept the crime rate high are similar to ones he sees in Fort Wayne.
“They feel like my mom don’t care, my dad’s not around, my brother’s in jail, so what do I have to live for, so I’m going to go out here and rob and steal and kill and laugh about it,” said T.J. Gates. Gates said he’s gotten on the right path and turned his life around, but his journey wasn’t easy.
“My pops wasn’t around, nobody was around, nobody cared, I felt like I had to do something, and me being in jail, I couldn’t help anybody,” Gates said.
Fatherless homes are a common issue community leaders are trying to tackle. Gates said people taking the time to show that they care is a big part of the solution. He credits his male mentors in the community with helping him. Now, city leaders are hoping having programs and initiatives focused on education, health, employment, and recidivism will also become part of the solution and promote understanding.
Last year, Fort Wayne was one of 11 cities chosen nationally for programs to enhance black male achievement.