When pastors from the Greater Columbus Apostolic Network went to Columbus City Hall Thursday, they went to offer their help to Mayor Andrew Ginther.
“We told him we’re not here to get things from you,” said pastor Scott Kelso. “We’re here to serve you and serve the city and make the City of Columbus a greater city.”
Their plan is to make an effort in specific neighborhoods to reduce crime and gun violence. The faith-based initiative is modeled after a similar and very successful program in Indianapolis. The Indy Ten Point model is to hit the streets with teams that include pastors, volunteers and former gang members or drug dealers that are employed to help make connections in the neighborhood.
Rev. Charles Harrison, president of the Indy Ten Point board, says partnering with law enforcement helps the street teams identify problem spots.
“So you have to know who the gangs are, who the neighborhood cliques are, who the drug dealers are, who the robbers are because they become the ones the faith community targets to try to redirect their lives,” Harrison said.
Last year, when the city saw it’s homicide rate spike to a record high, Mayor Andrew Ginther called on the faith community for help. “They can go and have conversations with people that we simply can’t have and engage with folks in a different way,” Ginther said after Thursday’s meeting.
Ginther said he was impressed by the pastors’ plan especially their proposed connections with the business community and the ability to offer meaningful alternatives. “Offering pathways to living wage jobs and opportunities for these young people if they’re willing to turn away from the life of gangs and illegal activity, that’s the power of the faith community and that’s what we’re hoping to do in this partnership,” Ginther said.
Rev. Harrison says they employ former gang members to work as part of the street teams alongside the pastors and volunteers. “We are deploying them to be ambassadors for peace back in the neighborhoods where they were once a problem,” Harrison said. “What makes it effective is they have the street cred to reach the people who are most likely to be the victims and the perpetrators of violent crime.”
The local effort will target neighborhoods in the 43205 zip code – an area bordered by East Broad Street to the north, Livingston Ave to the south, Parsons Ave on the west and Alum Creek to the east.