INDIANAPOLIS – Public Safety Director Troy Riggs says he’s ready to launch an efficiency team of police and community leaders to track the origins of youth violence, from its roots in school truancy through arrest and incarceration and the eventual return of the young offender back into his or her own neighborhood.
Riggs’ effort follows a violent first two months of 2013 where teens ran wild through downtown Indianapolis on Saturday nights, fighting police and themselves and firing off gunshots. Two other teens are charged in a cross-county crime spree that left one man dead in his driveway and another wounded while walking his dog.
“I think a lot of this is parental responsibility,” Mayor Greg Ballard told Fox 59, “and we might see if we can move in that direction to make them more accountable.”
During a monthly briefing with reporters, Riggs said he’s exploring options including tracking weapons from adults to children and forcing parents to pay restitution or participate in community service projects alongside their children. Other options include contacting public housing authorities to determine if public housing leases or Section 8 rent vouchers could be jeopardized if teens are arrested for crimes.
The Indianapolis Public Housing Agency has managed to cut major crimes by 23 percent since 2005 and realized an 81-percent decrease in homicides related to public housing and its residents.
Last year there were 163 arrests on IHA properties.
“Parents are looking for assistance. They’re looking for help. They want, in many cases, this counseling,” said Rufus Myers, executive director of IHA. “They do not want their housing lease threatened because of the action of their teenage child.”
After a child is arrested, IHA sends letters to parents offering counseling in order to protect their public housing or Section 8 status.
“Most of our parents have responded to the counseling offer that we’ve given them, however, the second, third or fourth offense could lead them to be evicted,” Myers said.
Riggs said he wants to see police officers become more proactive by knocking on doors to tell parents and children IMPD is worried about their welfare.
On the city’s northwest side, officers are already doing that.
“I think in this office last year I had three moms who were pretty upset that we had been to their house and talked to them about what their child had been up,” said Commander Brian Mahone. “I’m okay with having those conversations because each one of those moms left here understanding that we all want the same thing and we want their kid to be successful.”
Riggs said he wants his violent crime team to develop a strategy to head off teenage trouble before the summer heats up.
Ballard agrees, saying he was surprised the downtown violence of January took off for three of four weekends with no advance notice.
“As this crept up I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t see this coming and act accordingly,” the mayor told Fox 59. “Instead it got to a certain point it never should’ve gotten to and I would suggest there were probably signs ahead of time that we should’ve seen and we didn’t actually see them.”
Top IMPD officials were briefed by the faith based community and other community leaders in the weeks before shots were fired downtown Jan. 26.