Police, social service agencies sweep neighborhood following recent rash of violence

INDIANAPOLIS - Members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Community Engagement Office joined a host of social service representatives during a door-to-door sweep in the Fall Creek Place neighborhood Wednesday.

The sweep follows the Sept. 3 shooting death of 22-year-old Jakoby Hughes, who was found fatally shot next to a running car in the 2200 block of Bellefontaine Street.  The deadly shooting was followed by two more shootings in the same area within a couple days.

Detectives are still investigating Hughes’ killing.  Wednesday’s sweep was meant to dig deeper into the issues that may have lead to the crime.

“Without looking to be the police, you could say, we go house to house,” said IMPD Lt. Brian Churchill.  “And we address the issues that are of concern in that house.”

Churchill and other members of the Community Engagement Office were joined by representatives from multiple agencies that address behavioral health, youth services, immigrant outreach, parole and others.  The Department of Metropolitan Development, City Code Enforcement, Graffiti Abatement, Health and Human Services and the Police Athletic League were also part of the door-to-door operation.

“What is it that they need,” Churchill said.  “What are the underlying problems that evolve to cause crime, and how can we help them with that?”

Churchill said a primary goal of his office is to listen to the concerns of residents and put them in touch with the appropriate agency to help them.

“People need food, they need employment, they need transportation, they need help with a house next door that’s in disrepair,” Churchill said.  “The roof is falling in, or the fence isn’t kept up, or there’s graffiti on the walls.  Whatever that is, we’re trying to be the link between the person and the city service that they need.”

While Hughes’ killing is believed to have been drug related, community engagement officers are working to find the issues in specific neighborhoods that may lead a person to crimes like drug dealing and robbery.  People without hope, or those who felt left behind by society, often turn to criminal activity as a means of getting by, Churchill said.

IMPD Assistant Chief James Waters said walking neighborhoods and talking to residents face-to-face allows officers to establish new relationships.

“So that people understand that their police officers, their police department truly does care about them, and they see a balanced approach to law enforcement,” Waters said.

Forging new levels of trust also paves the way for residents to feel more comfortable providing detectives with information about crimes they may know about.

“The investigator obviously wants to solve it because not only does it get the person off the street who’s committed a homicide, but it helps bring closure to not only the family, but the neighborhood,” Waters said.

But forging new, trusting relationships doesn’t happen overnight, Waters said.  Building trust takes time.

“And to know that people have that information, but are afraid to share it, is very frustrating.”

The Marion County Prosecutors office is also working with IMPD Detectives to protect witnesses of crimes, representing a major step forward in creating a safe place for those witnesses to speak up.

The shooting death of Jakoby Hughes remains unsolved.  Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at (317) 262-TIPS.