At-risk teen camp aims to keep Indianapolis kids out of trouble

Camp part of crime-fighting initiative

INDIANAPOLIS - A boot camp now under way in Indianapolis is targeting at-risk teens, hoping to keep them off the mean streets.

When Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite rolled out his summer crime-fighting initiative last month, he highlighted a boot camp component for teenagers.

That camp, now under way, targets at-risk teens, a focus of officials trying to stop the crime problem before it begins.

Fourteen boys, hoping to live long enough to become men, have seen news reports of the shooting deaths of Monquize Edwards, 16, on July 4, and James Johnson on July 8.

As they run on the track at boot camp, they are running for their lives.

"It pains me to see young kids taking each other's lives," said Indianapolis police Sgt. Vince Burke. "I believe a program like this could help."

The boys spend eight hours a day at camp. They are there for a reason.

"I was going down a criminal path. My mom thought if she signed me up, it would help me learn to control myself in certain situations," said Cole Ford.

Situational guidance is provided during the physical fitness portion of the regimen and in the classroom.

"I got people on the side of me that's pushing me, telling me not to do something that is wrong," said Eren Sams, 15. "They are right there with me, so if I do something bad, they are going to be right there with me, telling me not to do nothing."

Sams' grandfather, Curtis Reedy, praised the boot camp.

"We can't be there for him all the time. We want to be able to instill in him those values that they can make the right decisions," Reedy said. "It's rough out here."

Campers were set to take a field trip Thursday to the morgue at the Marion County Coroner's Office, a place they don't want to be prematurely.

The camp ends on July 19. Officers who served as counselors plan to have face-to-face follow-up meetings with campers twice a month.

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