South Bend Tribune: Viewpoint: We are losing too many young Hoosiers to violence. Something must change.

By Brad Chambers
Published in the South Bend Tribune

On a Wednesday evening this November, a 13-year-old boy was gunned down on the streets of Indianapolis. Two weeks earlier in Fort Wayne, a 17-year-old was shot and killed. The night before that, a 12-year-old was murdered in South Bend. Three Indiana cities. Three youth dead. As a father, I have difficulty comprehending the loss to these boys’ families.

Too often the discussion about crime and violence gets swept up in statistics, socioeconomics, or demographics. The simple truth is that we are losing too many young people to senseless violence. In addition to the tragic loss of life, there is trauma and hopelessness that impacts everyone around the victims — the siblings, friends, neighbors and extended family.

Something must change. We must all say with a collective voice that a Hoosier child gunned down is a loss to our entire Indiana community.

Change will not come without two key ingredients: accountability and hope. Time and time again, we read that those pulling the trigger have a long and violent history. How much longer are we going to ignore the outcries of community leaders and law enforcement professionals about the never-ending revolving door in our criminal justice system? Is it unreasonable to demand that people who demonstrate violent acts be held accountable? Is it difficult to set clear and consistent requirements for bail and detention? I certainly don’t think so.

That’s why we released our Protect and Serve public safety plan early in my campaign. As governor, I will lead a comprehensive criminal justice reform effort to reinstate accountability in the system. It starts with instituting mandatory minimum bail requirements for violent and repeat offenders. My proposal will also give law enforcement more tools to identify and apprehend those pulling the trigger.

In my administration, I will expand the crime gun intelligence center statewide to track down those who use firearms in the commission of violent crime and get these criminals off our streets. I will also invest in new technologies such as rapid DNA, increase lab capabilities statewide, ensure that information is being shared across jurisdictional lines and create a regional multidisciplinary task force to assist law enforcement as we address the fentanyl crisis.

Those who choose the path of violence must be brought to justice. But to break this cycle, we must address root causes. Violence preys on people who have diminished hope. When areas of our state lose economic opportunities, when communities are left behind, when generation after generation cannot see their lives improving through education and employment, reaching for a gun may seem like an answer. We need to bring hope and opportunity to every community across the state.

Central to the reason I decided to leave my business career and run for governor is a belief that Indiana can be even better, that we can lift up those who have been left behind economically. I have spent my life developing, building and revitalizing communities. With that experience, together with my tenure as Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce, I have touched almost every community in Indiana. In just the last two years, the team and I were successful in driving wages materially higher and recruiting future focused industries to places like Kokomo, New Carlisle and Terre Haute.

Along with those historic investments, the new careers and higher wages, comes hope.

As secretary of commerce, I proved we can do more to lift people up, all over Indiana. But there is still more to do, much more. Hope, opportunity, strong families, and a quality education are as important to public safety as bail reform and providing our first responders the tools they need to apprehend criminals.

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing my economic and education plans for our state that will provide a road map to continued opportunity and renewal — a plan for a prosperous future for Indiana.

The families grieving for the loss of their children deserve and should demand leaders who will hold violent criminals accountable and do everything possible to instill hope for a better future.

Former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers is seeking the Republican Party nomination for governor in 2024.