New crime plan focuses on Indianapolis’ most dangerous areas

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By Kendall Downing

INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 9, 2014) – Indianapolis will target six of the city’s most dangerous areas in a new crime prevention plan unveiled Thursday afternoon by the Department of Public Safety.

The areas included are:

  • W. 16th St. and N. Tibbs Ave.
  • E. 42nd St. and N. Post Rd.
  • E. New York St. and N. Sherman Dr.
  • E. 38th St. and N. Sherman Dr.
  • W. 34th St. and N. Illinois St.
  • W. 29th St. and Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.

“Crime and violence are effects, and we confront those effects every day through the work of the Department of Public Safety,” said Public Safety Director Troy Riggs. “We also have to deal with the causes and bring long-term change that will make Indianapolis an even better place to live for the next generation. We have citizens who deserve a better life and we need to work together as a community to address their needs.”

Thursday afternoon, IMPD Chief Rick Hite had a frank message that policing on its own just won't cut it anymore.

"We've done this without a lot of resources, but now we need you," he said, "Two officers lost their lives. We've given everything we have to you folks. We squeezed the belt as tight as we can but we need your help right now."

One place on the list is 34th Street and Illinois. With one glance, boarded up and abandoned structures are everywhere. That neighborhood is one of six the Department of Public Safety is now calling a focus area.

"We have to change that mix, and a select few neighborhoods in the city have been mired in problems for a long time here in Indianapolis," said Mayor Greg Ballard.

The six parts of the city have higher poverty levels, lower education levels, and more violence.

The six locations also make up 4.7% of the population, but they account for 27.1% of criminal homicides, among other social ills.

"We're going to work with the community to set those goals and objectives for 2015. That work begins immediately," said Riggs.

The city wants to create community engagement teams to deal with issues like mental illness and vacant housing. They'll also continue their community conversations within the six focus areas to examine community needs.

Riggs said the community will be able to set goals for what should take place to improve life in those neighborhoods.

If we're going to be a world class city you can't have areas of your city that have havens of crime," said Rev. Dr. Philip James, of Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

James is pastor of the church at 35th Street and Graceland. He said step number one to cleaning up the community is getting drugs off the streets.

"You got to deal with cutting the supply of drugs coming into the city of Indianapolis," he said.

The Marion County Sheriff's Department will start working to get inmates with mental illness the help they need in a more targeted approach. By their estimates, 30% of those incarcerated in jail have ongoing mental issues.

The city's Ten Point Coalition will step in to make sure youth in the focus areas have safe places to go after school events and even through the holidays.

“We cannot just try to jail our way out of it or put a lot of police on the streets in those neighborhoods and think that alone will reduce the crime and violence," says Rev. Charles Harrison with Ten Point Coalition. "So this holistic approach is on target for how we need to address this problem.”

James "Dynamite" Black with Stop Street Violence says the plan can only be effective if community members get involved and take an active role in improving their neighborhoods.

“It’s going to take the neighborhoods. It’s going to take people coming out as well," insists Black. "The curfew with the kids – they need to make sure that the kids are in at the specific time they’re supposed to be in as well. “

The plan will continue Ballard’s “Three Bucket Approach,” a strategy that focuses on three areas: prevention, protection and punishment.

“Much of the crime impacting neighborhoods in cities across America stems from societal failure to address decades-old social issues,” said Ballard. “In order to make our residents and neighborhoods safer, we must holistically address issues such as poverty, lack of quality education, lack of positive mentors and mental illness.  This effort will help us pinpoint the problems that are leading to criminal activity and address those issues to improve the quality of life for people living in our most challenged areas.”

The crime prevention plan comes after an intensive data analysis of the areas that spanned from January 2013 through August 2014.