IMPD steps up traffic stops to search for felons, guns

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INDIANAPOLIS – While Indianapolis’ murder trend still defies gravity and the odds, the city’s violent crime rate is down more than four percent and metro police are taking an aggressive approach toward tracking down felons, wanted persons and illegal guns.

On the northwest district, Commander Brian Mahone has officers making legitimate traffic stops as part of their everyday assignment. Those stops have resulted in thousands of arrests.

One out of every 11 stops for a broken tail light or an illegal lane change results in an arrest on another charge.

Patrolman Eli Raisovich racks up an arrest every three times he flips on his lights and sirens.

“I know what I’m looking for,” said the patrol officer in his 15th year of cruising West 38th Street.

During his first patrol less than a quarter-mile from district headquarters, Raisovich spotted a beat-up 1996 green Oldsmobile with a broken tail light and shattered windshield.

“Afternoon, sir. Can I see your driver’s license please?” Raisovich asked the 23-year-old driver.

A computer check revealed that Lamont Wilford was a suspended driver with 42 points on his record.

That wasn’t the worst of his worries.

“There’s a firearm in the console,” said Sgt. Michael Jefferson, who backed up Raisovich on the stop. A check showed the gun was stolen.

“This isn’t my car,” volunteered Wilford, who first confessed to not knowing anything about the gun before claiming he traded it the day before for a puppy.

Police said that might explain why there was dog fighting gear in the car’s backseat.

“We’re probably going to try to tie the gun to other cases,” said Raisovich after Wilford admitted he didn’t have a firearms permit. “We’ll see what this guy’s full criminal history is. See what his contacts are. See why he has certain other things in his car.”

The stop for a bad tail light resulted in handcuffs, a conversation with an undercover detective (“He isn’t giving anything up.”) and a ride in the back of a jail wagon.

“This happened to be in the right place at the right time,” explained Raisovich.

The increased patrols on northwest district come a week before IMPD Chief Rick Hite will unveil his violent crime reduction strategy for this summer.

Hite and U.S Attorney Joe Hogsett hosted a meeting for community leaders at the Forest Manor Multi Service Center to talk about east side gun violence.

The city’s murder rate is up 54 percent compared to a year ago, though violent crime is off more than three percent as IMPD’s workforce has shrunk due to retirements and a lack of a new recruit class.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs has endorsed a new more pro-active IMPD strategy of traffic enforcement that gives the officers the discretion to not necessarily write citations but be more visible while targeting wanted persons and felons who could potentially be involved in violent crimes.

“Bad guys gotta drive every day,” said Mahone.