Indy crime evolving in front of city’s eyes

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Crime in Indianapolis has been evolving for the last seven years before our eyes.

Shrinkage of the IMPD force to below 1,500 officers in 2011 presaged a violent crime wave that was a reflection not only of law enforcement limitations but also of generational and technological changes.

The crushing of local drug gangs by combined local and federal investigations curbed the outbreak of multiple-homicide incidents but also splintered the groups into unpredictable factions.

While across the board the crime statistics IMPD reports to the FBI have, for the most part, steadied or even fallen, the number of homicides and non-fatal shootings continue to climb to record levels.

Indianapolis suffered a bad month for murder in just 11 days with IMPD investigating 12 violent deaths through Tuesday morning putting the city’s homicide count 10 days ahead of last year’s record pace.

A triple fatal shooting on Ethel Avenue on Saturday, August 12, capped a violent weekend that led the way to another triple-fatal weekend six days later followed up by at least two and maybe three murders on Monday of this week.

Against that backdrop, investigators representing state, federal and local agencies met at IMPD’s Regional Operations Center Tuesday afternoon to identify crime trends, who’s involved and how to stop them.

“This is an evolution of our IVRP projects which has opened the door for communication between not just our internal groups within our police department but external groups within law enforcement throughout the county, prosecutor’s office, sheriff’s office and our federal partners in using our technology and tools in trying to put these pieces together,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Chris Bailey. “This isn’t a project where we’ve gone to a neighborhood and thrown a net out to see what kind of bad actors we can find. We are focused on specific people places and behaviors because they made themselves known to us.”

At the top of the agenda, IMPD’s identification of 45 juveniles involved in approximately two dozen gun incidents and at least two murders in the last year.

“We’ve identified some of these kids to intervene early in their lives,” said Bailey, “the younger kids to try to get these social service providers and parents to recognize certain behaviors to provide their kids with a good foundation of conflict resolution skills, understand there’s other ways to deal with your issues rather than with a gun to try to break the cycle.”

Monday night, IMPD officers arrested three teenagers, all born in 1999, for the murder of a far east side pizza deliveryman.

Earlier this summer, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced his summer youth violence reduction strategy which included improved job and educational prospects for older teenagers under the supervision of county juvenile probation officers, the monitoring of high-risk juvenile offenders including at-home visits and more intervention with youth who have been associated with gun crimes.

“The access to guns is so easy,” said Anthoney Hampton, a mentor at the Marion County Juvenile Division. “Three or four years ago they were standing in line to get Jordan’s. Now they passing around guns and dope and killing each other.

“These kids, they haven’t been loved, they don’t have the capacity to love and they go to social media and they have various conversations and you know who’s who, when it happened and it’s sad.”

State parole and probation officers knock on doors across Indianapolis every day and often arrest offenders in possession of guns and drugs after their release from prison or while serving a court-ordered sentence at home.

Bailey said IMPD officers take 25-40 guns a week out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Investigators believe the advent of social media, either to inflame disputes that become violent or to emulate performers or outlaws, has supplanted parental influence.

“These kids look up to local rap artists and they believe that everything that they hear and they have to do and then when they do they can go make a rap video,” said Hampton, “and they livin’ for likes, that’s what they livin’ for, likes.”

Bailey’s detectives peruse social media for clues to potential crimes and after their aftermath.

“I’d like to say I’m surprised, but being on the police department for twenty years, it doesn’t really surprise me in the things that I see each and every day on social media, the way that this violent lifestyle is glorified and music and TV and radio in some of our neighborhoods, it really doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “I’m no scientist, but I’ve heard over and over again that the human brain’s not fully developed until the age of 24 and so these children aren’t making rational decisions and they come from homes where they aren’t getting good direction and so many their development is even less than somebody who comes from a stable home and does those things to take care of themselves.

“We’re losing a generation of kids to gun violence.”