INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - When reporters from the Washington Post visited Indianapolis in April, they were given in-depth access to the city’s police chief and homicide investigators.
What the Post found, in a recent report, was of the 1322 homicides investigated by IMPD from 2007-2017, 55% resulted in an arrest, putting Indianapolis slightly above the national average of 50 cities surveyed.
The article was published at the same time as Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is trying to lure Amazon’s second North American headquarters, with a potential $5 billion economic impact over the next two decades. While any national media attention extolling the city’s vibrant high tech environment is welcomed, a national spotlight on the local struggle to combat violent crime delivers a mixed message.
“When those stories are written you have to, as mayor, you have to own the truth and that’s why we’re working diligently to correct that,” said Hogsett. “We have to be honest with ourselves and the truth is there is, just like all major urban areas, there is in certain neighborhoods in our city a high level of gun violence and we’re working diligently to address those concerns.”
The Post article included a map showing hot spots for murder that coincided with cold spots for arrests, highlighting a challenge Indianapolis and many major cities face in developing trust between police and residents. For example, combating the no-snitch street code and recruiting a police force that looks more like the community it patrols.
“We’re working diligently to expand our beat-oriented community-based police model,” said Hogsett, “we just added a community violence reduction coordinator. She will in turn hire some additional staff that can spread out into those neighborhoods that have a disproportionately high level of gun violence and I hope we’ll turn the corner.”
A report just released by the City County Council found that of 773 murders in Indianapolis from 2013 until Wednesday, African American males were four times more likely to be victims as opposed to whites.
The average age of an offender’s first arrest is 12-years-old, infant mortality rates in some city zip codes are as high as 26% and such rates keep pace in those neighborhoods with the homicide statistics.
Wednesday night’s murder in an alley off E. 20th and N. Olney Streets was the 69th homicide of the year in Indianapolis, putting the city's violent death tally slightly ahead of 2017’s record pace.
“It's going to take partnerships between the city leaders the community leaders and frankly all of the citizens coming together. We just can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” said Tom Stuckey, Executive Associate Dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI, which will host a public safety forum June 28.
“The key issue there is to have a partnership between the neighborhood residents, the community leaders, the businesses and non-profits and the city government. That is something that is very difficult to put together and very difficult to sustain, especially in neighborhoods that have a lot of significant issues, they tend to be the ones that are the hardest to pull together,” he added.
The City County Council will consider the $3 million annual Mile Square Economic Improvement District Monday night which would provide, among other things, funding to address homeless issues in downtown Indianapolis.
IMPD officers in the downtown district have now been instructed to deliver homeless persons and others dealing with a substance abuse or mental illness issues to the Reuben Engagement Center on E. Market St., a 30-bed facility dedicated to short-term shelter and treatment referral.
“Typically we serve individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness who have used drugs or alcohol within a 72-hour period so that could include someone who is currently intoxicated coming in here,” said Executive Director Brandy McCord. “They would meet with our resource coordinators here who start to connect them with outside treatment providers including residential housing and residential recovery programs.
“A little over fifty percent of the individuals who come in actually get connected with those providers and make it through the program.”
Last year, accepting intake primarily from IMPD’s East District Mobile Crisis Assistance Team, the Reuben Center provided shelter for 940 clients.
McCord expects to boost that annual number to 1500 this year.
“You don’t want your jails to be overrun by people with low level crimes who have mental health needs and addictions needs because the jails are not a good place to serve those individuals.”
The Hogsett Administration is researching options to expand the MCAT program throughout the city in an effort to relieve crowding stress on the Marion County Jail.
Such diversion services, and an expanded Community Correction program, are key to Hogsett’s plan to build a proposed $570 million community justice center on the city’s east side and consolidate the county’s courts, jail, sheriffs office and detention medical facilities all at one location.
Editor's note: The City Council's report linked above will download to your PC as a Powerpoint presentation.