The Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Indiana, the Fraternal Order of Police and Fort Wayne United have collaborated on the initiative which will develop a partnership between law enforcement and at-risk youth through positive activities and mentoring.
"A collective effort to bring the community together is another example of Fort Wayne's commitment to providing opportunities and making a meaningful difference," Henry said.
One way to bring the community together is by placing donations in blue buckets in "high-traffic" retail and business locations from mid-May through Labor Day, which will continue to fund programs aimed at helping police mentor to at-risk youth in meaningful ways.
Joe Jordan, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, said the partnership is "a community approach to a community problem."
The nonprofit organization provides structured after-school programs that emphasize good character and citizenship and has an average daily attendance of approximately 500 children, according to Jordan.
On Monday night about 300 children met with officers from city, state, county and the Department of Natural Resources who gave kids tours of their vehicles and talked about their work.
"Any time we can get the community galvanized around these types of issues, I can't help but be excited," Jordan added.
Fort Wayne Police Department Sgt. Mitchell McKinney, who also is local president of the Fraternal Order of Police Wayne Lodge 14 and northeast trustee for 16 counties in the state of Indiana, said the partnership is a way for "officers to humanize themselves" to get kids to see them as moms and dads.
"We really do have a disconnect with kids," McKinney said. "We only have one chance to make a positive impact."
McKinney noted it's critical to reach children before they get into middle school, where they are influenced by peers who encourage them to commit crimes and join gangs.
Earlier this month, four members of the "2500" gang were indicted in federal court for murder, attempted murder and drug trafficking.
McKinney said this opportunity to mentor to the community's youth is placing a "deposit into the community's bank account" instead of a withdrawal to jail or prison.
McKinney said the Fort Wayne initiative is the first of its kind to be launched in Indiana, and is expected to begin soon in six additional counties — Adams, Elkhart, Huntington, Kosciusko, Marshall and Wells.
For the last two years Fort Wayne United has engaged in L.I.V.E. (Listening to Input and Voices through Engagement) sessions with a small group of black youth and adults in specific age groups to educate them about the role of police while empowering them, according to Iric Headley, the organization's director.
Headley said the community awareness program will create "national noise."
Jordan said there are Boys & Girls Clubs and law enforcement in every county. "I'll be surprised if this doesn't become a national program," he said.