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South Bend gun violence trending downward since grants started

The Music Village instructor Joce Dugan teaches some keyboard to A'niya during a past Girls Rock summer camp.
Adam Robert Creative/Adam Robert Creative
The Music Village instructor Joce Dugan teaches some keyboard to A'niya during a past Girls Rock summer camp.

The city of South Bend is about to play Santa Claus to some nonprofits looking to reduce gun violence.

For the fourth straight year, nonprofits who have applied are waiting to learn any day now whether they’ll receive part of next year’s South Bend Alive grants. The city since 2021 has been giving the money to nonprofits to provide programming aimed at keeping youth out of the kind of trouble that leads to gun violence.

The city’s gun violence statistics have been heading in the right direction since the grants began, according to public records that the South Bend Police Department provided to WVPE in response to a records request.

In 2019 there were 738 violent crimes involving guns. The figure jumped to 936 in 2020 and climbed again to 1,120 in 2021, the first year of the grant programs. That first year was the peak of the violence statistics. The number of crimes declined to 950 in 2022 and was on pace for an annual total of 810 this year.

Mayor James Mueller started the program in his first year in office. He proposed it as an alternative to bringing in a program called “Peacemakers Fellowship,” an initiative founded in the Oakland, California-area that some community members and common council leaders had wanted to bring to South Bend. It would have cost the city around $300,000 a year, an annual amount similar to what it’s been spending on the South Bend Alive grants.

Moe Scott, Mueller’s chief community officer, has been overseeing the grant program since it began. He said he thinks it has played a role in the violence trending in the right direction.

“It’s definitely part of the effects of the anti-violence movement, if you will, because of the intentionality,” Scott says. “The intentionality behind some of our grantees and what they’re really doing, you can kind of see it in the numbers.

“I think about, if the way we were trending, if we didn’t have that, what would it be, right? It could be really crazy.”

In the first year, the city gave out a lot of smaller grants to almost 50 recipients. Since then it’s been awarding up to $25,000 grants to only 10 groups a year. The city spent $336,000 on the program the first year, $461,000 the second year and has spent $203,000 so far this year.

“The biggest shift, I decided, I said, well, let’s focus on those that are really tapping in, specifically, with these teens and young kids that’s offering jobs, that’s doing more mentoring. It wasn’t just special event-type stuff. It was year-round programming that we started to focus on that really seemed to check a lot of boxes.”

The Music Village, a nonprofit community musical arts center and school located downtown, received a smaller grant this year to fund some scholarships for its Girls Rock summer camp. It has applied for a larger $25,000 grant for next year to pay for the entire program, says executive director Josh Aerie.

“A lot of them are being exposed to instruments and music, and the ability to create music, not only alone but with other girls, for the very first time,” Aerie said. “That’s a powerful experience and a real affirming and team-building experience.”

While the vast majority of gun violence is perpetrated by young males, Aerie says it’s still important to work with girls.

“I believe that girls and women are often victims of gun violence, and so strengthening families and strengthening girls, specifically their confidence, their ability to be wonderfully effective, contributing members of our society, that’s a very important part of the overall equation of reducing gun violence in our community.”

The city earlier this year said it planned to announce next year’s grant winners in the final week of November. A city spokeswoman Monday said she couldn’t say exactly when the announcement will be made but that it will be soon.


Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).