INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Violent crime impacts every corner of Marion County. It is evident no community is immune by looking through 2019 – January 2021 data for Indianapolis Metropolitan, Speedway, Lawrence and Beech Grove Police Departments.
In October, the Indianapolis City-County Council announced they would use focused data, from 2014-2018, as a way to help the highest crime areas. This data was collected through a partnership between the city’s Office of Public Health & Safety, the council, and IUPUI’s Polis Center program, SAVI.
SAVI provided each councilor with a profile of their district which included the violent crime index, a measurement of the district’s violent crime plus the factors likely leading to violent crime. The determinants include poverty, unemployment, households receiving public assistance, undereducation and single-parent households.
Researchers also measured race segregation for each district. This data is what District 1 Councillor Leroy Robinson, chair of the council’s public safety & criminal justice committee, said will drive the council’s decisions for crime prevention money moving forward.
“We have the data now so I’m asking our citizens to hold us accountable to how do we see a shift in our budgetary priorities to start shifting budget resources to places where the need is far greater than other parts of our city,” Robinson explained.
The council is launching a pilot program that will use $1.25 million in crime prevention grants to be split between the districts, based on need. This grant funding must only be used for non-profit organizations.
So, Districts 13 and 17, which have the highest violent crime index, will get the most grant money vs. districts like 4, 5, and 25 where the violent crime index is much lower.
“Not a great deal of money, we know that,” Robinson said. “We know that. Will it make a significant change in homicides? Probably not. What we will do, we’ll start seeing that is this a way on a needs-based method to allocate resources.
D13 is the second most violent district in Marion County, based on SAVI’s data. Rose Craig lives in the area with her children.
“Me and my husband have had to go clean up the little bit of area of grass that they have and make them an area for them to play,” Craig said. “Cleaning up is needles, condoms, baggies.”
Antonio Patton has also lived in D13 for years. He said the community is desperate for employment opportunities, job skills training and access to food.
“We need livable wages, we need education, we definitely need food, we need grocery stores back in our community,” Patton said. “It’s a food desert out here on the far east side
Patton and Craig illustrated how poverty and access to food and employment are drivers of crime.
“When people don’t have access to get to what they need, they do whatever it takes to survive,” Craig said.
D13 is receiving one of the biggest chunks of money in this new strategy. Forty-seven people were killed in this district from January 1, 2019, through January 31, 2021, based on IMPD data.
Robinson said each councilor is required to come up with a list of priorities based on SAVI’s data and local non-profits in Indianapolis committed to the issues facing their district. These details will be presented to the Central Indiana Community Foundation.
CICF is the one who will ultimately vet and choose which nonprofit organizations receive each councilor’s funding.
“I know it will work,” Robinson said. “We need more resources though. But will we see the results by the end of this calendar year? Probably not. But I think we’ll start seeing some trends in certain areas that if we allocate resources based on the need using data, we’ll start to see a trend of things coming down. Not just in homicides but in crime in general.”
D17 Councillor Zach Adamson began having meetings with the people he represents after receiving his profile. Again, D17 has the highest violent crime index in the city.
Based on IMPD homicide records, 56 people have been killed here from January 1, 2019, through January 2021. That is roughly 11% of total homicides among all of the districts for this time period.
“I don’t know that we’re able to solve the problems with the limited resources that we have, Adamson explained. “The idea is using the data that we have, and that’s what makes this whole thing different than things that we’ve ever done before, is that we’re using the data to really drive what kind of things we’re looking at to really impact.”
One-third of people living in D17 are in poverty; one-fifth of adults do not have a high school diploma. Adamson stresses his district needs resources to help deter violent crime.
“Sometimes it’s groceries, sometimes it’s diapers,” Adamson said. “It’s making sure that people have those basic needs and sometimes it’s that simple. Other times it’s more complex like jobs skills training. How do we make sure that individuals in our community are job-ready?”
Robinson insisted we cannot talk about violent crime without talking about the issues that impact it. The D1 Councillor said the council’s goal is to prioritize equity over equality as it relates to crime prevention funding moving forward.
We reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett’s Office to ask for his opinion on the council’s decision to focus on factors likely increasing crime in specific districts. Mark Bode, spokesperson for the city, said this:
“Mayor Hogsett is proud to collaborate with the City-County Council to reduce violence by investing in Indianapolis neighborhoods. By adding to $3.3 million in existing community-based violence prevention grant programs, which are themselves targeted to high-priority areas, we can most effectively address the root causes of crime and enhance safety for residents across our city.”