IMPD leans on food pantry in crime fight

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 29, 2016)-- Metro Police Chief Troy Riggs believes if the city adheres to the Biblical wisdom of Matthew that admonishes followers to, “Give us this day our daily bread,” Indianapolis’ crime rate might go down this year.

Like last summer, IMPD will be leaning on Gleaners to lead the way in feeding the hungriest people in the city’s toughest neighborhoods and bring down the rate of violence and the number of calls for service in six focus areas.

“If we’re going to have people coming to receive food and we know that many of them are suffering from mental illness, or people in their families, lets start working with them and see if we can make a difference,” said Riggs. “One thing we do know, and in some of our toughest areas in our community, high crime rates, low quality of life, people are about 200-300 percent more likely to suffer from a mental illness than anywhere else in the city.”

In the summer of 2015, Gleaners fed more than 62,000 people representing in excess of 16,000 households in focus areas where IMPD reports a disproportionate amount of crime occurs.

Gleaner’s spent $750,000 to provide 375,000 meals, but calls to Crimestoppers went up by 30 percent in those areas.

“Tips go up, arrests are made, we saw that last year,” said Riggs. “If we want to be serious about long term crime prevention, we’re never going to solve the mental health issues we have as a society, the dependency issues we have as a society, the vacant homes, the education levels, if people are hungry each and every day and they’re just trying to find food to eat.”

Gleaners President and CEO Cindy Hubert is aiming at a mid-June launch for the 2016 Mobile Pantry program.

“We build relationships, then we can deal with other things,” said Hubert. “If people trust us to be there and to be a part of the neighborhood, then we can say, ‘Alright, how can we refer? How can we engage in other problems that the folks there are experiencing above and beyond food?’”

IMPD expects other partners such as Midtown Mental Health, Community Health Network and veterans support groups to be present at the pantry sites for on-the-spot referrals.

“It relieves the stress,” said Hubert. “Then they can go on and do other things. If they’re not looking for the next meal or provide for their families, the stress of a grandparent raising a grandchild today which is happening in 29 percent of the households that we’re now serving, if we can help them with the food then they can go figure out how they’re going to do the rest of the things.”

Marion County Sheriff John Layton says approximately 40 percent of the 2100 inmates his jail houses are classified with mental illness issues.

Each day the jail infirmary hands out 700 doses of psychotropic drugs at an annual cost of $640,000 with other medical care costs to be considered.

“We want to lessen the use of force if at all possible,” said Riggs. “What that does is it helps citizens, it helps our officers, no one wants to be in a confrontation, the injuries that we have, the shooting victims in the community and our police officers, a lot of that is because of mental illness. We have to be serious about this and I think our officers understand this.”

Riggs is promising even more advanced training for officers on how to spot and deal with mental illness issues when responding to a call.

“Officers don’t want to arrest someone who has a disease. They want to arrest people that are causing crimes and wreaking havoc in our community and we’re going to be serious about that,” he said.

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