City leaders and a group of young residents unveiled a collaboration intended to reduce violence in Indianapolis on Thursday.
The first of 25 billboards that will be displayed throughout the city with violence prevention messages was revealed on the city’s north side. The billboards were designed by four members of VOICES Corporation, a youth center in Indianapolis.
“What I want everyone to take from these billboards is a piece of mind,” said Shaneice Brown, who helped with the design. “I want (people) to see it and start thinking about what is really behind this violence. I want people to express to their kids, neighbors, family and friends and have a discussion about what these billboards mean.”
Last year, 249 people were killed in criminal homicides in Indianapolis, the most in the city's history.
The billboards will be displayed throughout the city for four weeks, beginning Friday morning.
One billboard reads: “We Are Powerful. Beautiful. Family. Human.” It displays an image of hands working together and encourages positivity, leadership and unity within the city, said Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears.
Violence in Indianapolis: 249 people were killed in criminal homicides in 2021. Here are their names
The second billboard reads: “What Is Actually Behind the Violence?” and highlights the root causes that lead to violence including, trauma, poverty, and lack of support.
The idea for the billboards came together when Mears met Brown at a community discussion.
"If we empower young people and give young people a voice, it would put us in a better position,” Mears said. “We do need to do a better job of giving young people an opportunity."
Mears connected with City-County Councilor Zach Adamson, who heard that Reagan Outdoor, a billboard company, wanted to do something to help with violence in Indianapolis, and so they donated the ad space.
"If these 25 billboards throughout the market can start a conversation about compassion, love and unity, we have succeeded in taking the first steps to providing a safer and more accepting community,” said Bill Platko, general manager of Reagan Outdoor.
Brown worked with Ronnelle Collins, Destiny Hatcher and Bodler St. Louis to design the billboards.
"This is a step in the right direction to bring more attention to the problem, which is violence,” Collins said. “Hopefully when people ride by, they will want to spread the word and just make a little piece of the world better.”
Contact Jake Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jake_Allen19.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indianapolis billboards show violence prevention messages