IMPD stats show gentrification leads to safer Indy neighborhoods

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In the midst of a record year for murder, IMPD statistics show there were pockets of peace in the city where crime ruled for decades.

From the near north side to the King Park community to Fountain Square, once gentrification, new home construction and small business expansion moved in, crime moved out.

Of the 154 murders investigated by IMPD in 2017, 43 occurred in a geographic area bordered by East 46th Street on the north, Washington Street on the south, Arlington Avenue on the east and College Avenue on the west.

Adjoining College Avenue is the Old Northside, once home to the notorious “Dodge City” part of Indianapolis, so named by police officers for the number of shots fired runs rivaled only by the prevalence of drug houses and abandoned buildings.

To the east is King Park which was targeted by the city’s wrecking crews years ago to wipe blight off the streets.

Now, formerly run down houses and vacant lots have given way to $500,000 homes as residents are again flocking to the neighborhoods north of downtown. East of College toward the Monon Trail, not only are construction crews rehabbing formerly empty buildings but sewers are coming to side streets for the first time.

“As areas improve either through rehab to houses, more commercial developments, more residents in a neighborhood, more people active in a neighborhood, it pushes crime out, it naturally happens because they can’t thrive here,” said Evan Tester of the King Park Development Corporation which has facilitated loans and investment to longtime residents and new business owners. “Definitely us and some of other partners see it as working on the fringes where you have an active strong and robust neighborhood and a strong robust commercial neighborhood and you start pushing on those edges and start pushing out into areas that are on the fringes where things aren’t so strong you can start pushing crime out of the way and start pushing blight out of the way as you redevelop those areas.”

King Park and the near north side recorded no killings in 2017, but to the east and south, the crossroads of East 10th and Rural streets and the neighborhoods around the John Boner Center were visited by IMPD homicide detectives seven times last year.

“I don’t want my kids to go to school talking about somebody seeing a dead body or somebody’s parents seeing a dead body something like that,” said lifelong resident Andre Tompkins. “Why can’t they go to school talking about regular kid stuff?”

Tompkins stood outside a home in the 1100 block of North Jefferson Avenue where Gillium Levy was the second murder victim of 2017.

With the Super Bowl Legacy Project bringing life and investment back to the neighborhoods around Arsenal Technical High School, Tompkins would like to see gentrification creep in from the east side of downtown and through Woodruff Place just to the west.

“I mean that would be a beautiful thing to see that, it would be like a complete 180 from what I seen,” he said. “It wouldn’t be such an eyesore.”

Ryan Hayes moved into his house five years ago, attracted by the diversity of the community.

Though his property’s value might increase and community safety could improve with gentrification, Hayes said he’s not a fan of rehabilitation at the cost of the neighborhood’s social fabric.

“I would sure hope not. I really appreciate where our neighborhood is currently. I think gentrification unfortunately displaces a lot of people that deserve to be in the neighborhood they’ve lived in for a long period of time and there’s not a reason to displace them because of their income.

“There are folks who struggle to survive. Sometimes they chose to make decisions that get them in trouble unfortunately.

“I really appreciate the neighborhood. That’s why I moved here instead of the money.”

The street where Gillium Levy died, just down the block and around the corner from the locations of at least three other murders, is in the middle of IMPD’s NE20 beat, one of the most violent patches of turf in the city.

IMPD lists the community as a focus area for additional enforcement.

Longtime resident Andre Tompkins realizes it’ll take a commitment from neighbors, with maybe some financial help, to put the neighborhoods where he grew up back on their feet to affordable and safe housing for families.

“All it takes is a little bit of effort. Like fixing up these houses,” he said. “You got more people over here you got more eyes, right?”