INDIANAPOLIS — A neighborhood on Indianapolis’ north side is making strides in efforts to reduce violent crime.
The Butler-Tarkington neighborhood has gone 365 days without another murder, something community leaders and those involved in anti-violence efforts credit to being a community-wide effort. It’s the fourth time since 2016 the neighborhood has gone a full year without someone being killed in a criminal homicide.
“I am one that believes in the bottom-up approach where neighborhoods drive their own crime prevention strategy in partnership with the city and law enforcement, and together they work to address not just the immediate violence, but the root causes of the violence,” said Reverend Charles Harrison, Board President of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition and pastor at Barnes United Methodist Church.
Groups like the Indy Ten Point work to patrol several neighborhoods in the city, Butler-Tarkington included, several days a week.
It was during the late summer and early fall of 2015, when the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood was rocked by several murders, which prompted a major push for change that has since continued.
Ted Feeney was President of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association at the time.
“In a nine-week period of time in 2015, six of my neighbors were killed; four within the neighborhood boundaries and two within the city,” said Feeney. “In a very short period of time, many families, blocks, streets, an entire neighborhood was on edge and traumatized with what occurred, but we took action, and we came together.”
Residents in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood have partnered with community stakeholders, city leaders, Indy Ten Point, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, businesses, and others to work towards proactively trying to reduce crime and violence.
“When we say we’ve gone another year without a homicide in four out of the last six, considering what is happening across the city, that truly is an incredible milestone,” said Feeney.
The city has been impacted by record-breaking violence, particularly in 2021, where 271 people were killed in homicides across Indianapolis.
“No one should have to live in fear in their neighborhood and city. It can be done,” said Feeney, crediting the people and groups that have partnered over the last seven years to take action.
IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said Butler-Tarkington serves as a ‘great example’ of what can happen when residents stand up and say that they’ve had enough.
“It doesn’t matter what program, what organization, what government entity is there, if the residents are not fed up with it, it’s not going to move forward,” said Bailey.
Bryan Bradford, current President of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, said they’ve developed a strong relationship with IMPD’s North District Commander, which has been a huge factor in their efforts.
“It feels good to be able to call him when we have a problem, and he steps right in,” said Bradford. “I also want to thank the residents of Butler-Tarkington because we can’t do this without them. If you see something, say something. If you see it, call.”
The last murder that took place in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood happened on January 12, 2021 when 32-year-old Ashley Bell was shot and killed in what investigators said was a domestic-related murder.
Just two months prior, in November 2020, Harold Lee III was gunned down in front of his own mother’s house in the 3800 block of Cornelius Avenue.
“He was just very, very adamant about getting kids to do something positive with their life,” said Harold’s brother, Damon Lee.
“It just doesn’t make sense when you’ve got somebody who touched so many of these young people’s lives for the last 10, maybe 15 years just coaching and being there for them that he would die tragically himself,” said Damon.
The Lees grew up in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood and worked to help give back to others in the community through coaching and mentoring youth.
“I feel like you can change a child and help them out with making great decisions and see that life is bigger than living a street life or committing murder,” said Damon.
When asked what Harold, who worked to help others and push for peace in his community, would think about the progress being made in violence reduction efforts, this is what he said: “I think he would be proud that nobody else was killed, but it’s bittersweet.”
The reason for that is because Harold’s case has never been solved and no arrests have been made.
“You should celebrate your victories, because every small victory counts for the whole city, but for us as a family we are still devastated with not one, but two unsolved homicides,” said Damon, who said his brother-in-law, Clarence Wade Havvard, was also shot and killed on the same street in 2015.
“I appreciate the 365 days because nobody should have to go through what my family’s going through,” said Damon.
He hopes people not only continue to be motivated to join in on crime reduction efforts, but to also speak up and help get justice for those aching from the losses they’ve faced due to violent crime.
Another victim still waiting for justice is 10-year-old Deshaun Swanson and his family. He was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2015, which still remains unsolved more than six years later.
“Deshaun Swanson was killed in that neighborhood during that terrible time. His family still mourns for him, the police department still mourns for him, and I know the residents do. His case is still unsolved, and somebody out there knows who and why and when and it’s time for you to do the right thing,” said Bailey.
Bailey added, “That’s the way we stop this violence, that’s the way we stop the cycle, is we hold those accountable who are victimizing our communities, not just here, but all over the city.”
You can call Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana anonymously at (317) 262-TIPS with any information.
In addition to efforts in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, the model for crime fighting has been adapted in other areas of the city, including the Highland Vicinity, Crown Hill, Carriage House East Apartments and outside of Marion County borders, in Fort Wayne, IN.
“I think that you just need to change one at a time. If you change one at a time, then eventually you change a community,” said Damon. “For those groups, I tell them to keep doing the work. You’re gonna have good days and you’re gonna have bad days, but just continue to do the work.”
Indianapolis City-County Councillor John Barth shared his thoughts on the successes of the crime reduction efforts on Twitter Thursday afternoon.
“I join @Charlesharriso5 in recognizing this important milestone and appreciate the activities of 10 Point Coalition. I especially value the strong partnership that @IMPD_news has developed with neighborhood groups throughout District 7 and the hard work of neighborhood leaders. I look forward to continuing my long-time support of @butler-tark in addressing crime and underlying issues such as food and economic insecurity.”John Barth, City-County Councillor, District 7