INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. --Indianapolis is one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.
According to a new study by 24/7 Wall St., 2015 FBI crime data ranks Indianapolis as 13th of all major cities for violent crime.
“Wow,” says Reverend Malachi Walker with a shake of his head. “The only word I can say is wow.”
Researchers found the city’s rates for robberies, aggravated assaults rapes and murders were all well above the national average in 2015. Most violent crime rates are even higher this year.
“We have to reach out to our young people because they’re killing and also they’re being killed,” says Walker.
Walker and IMPD Chief Troy Riggs both say this may only be the beginning.
“As we came here and we saw the issues that we were facing, that we were going to have to reallocate people, that we were going to have to be more aggressive and targeted in our approach,” says Riggs. “I said then and the mayor has said many times, it could get worse before it gets better.”
So far this year, there have been 116 murders in the city of Indianapolis. That’s up from 97 this time last year.
Keep in mind, 2015 was the deadliest year ever for the city. It’s a record Riggs knows could fall this year.
“I think you can see as we’ve put more stress on the streets, more officers on the streets, using that information from citizens, we’ve made some significant arrests,” says Riggs. “It drove crime down short-term, but long-term I said they would always adjust. They’re adjusting now.”
Both fatal and non-fatal shootings are on track to be higher this year than last. There have been 366 non-fatal shootings, 24 more than at this time.
“We have to do something because the bad guys are out there and they’re going to keep coming and we have to keep fighting back,” says Walker.
Both men agree battling economic issues is key. The research backs them up.
In almost every one of America’s most dangerous cities, unemployment and poverty were both high. Indianapolis is no exception.
Riggs says our most crime-heavy neighborhoods have depression-era levels of poverty, which is why Riggs’ strategy includes continuing to work on connecting people, especially those in high-crime neighborhoods, to social services.
Some issues though, he says, won’t be easily solved with resources or additional officers. He sees many homicides happening because some lack coping skills.
“We have actually had people die in this city over someone didn’t like the way another individual was parked in the alley,” recounts Riggs. “They could still get through the alley; they just didn’t like the way that they were parked. They had an argument, someone pulled out a gun and shot that individual.”
Riggs also remembers a recent near-fatal incident. Two men had an argument over the last beer at a bar. In anger, one man grabbed a box cutter and cut the other so many times that now he’s in critical condition.
“Those are the types of issues that we’re dealing with as a society, that it doesn’t matter whether we have 1600 officers or 3600 officers, there’s only so much we can do in those situations,” says Riggs.
Walker with his “Young Men Inc.” group, is also focusing on giving young people more to do.
“There’s an old saying that says that ‘an idle mind is a devil’s playground,’” says Walker. “We need to give them some positive things to do in our community because if they don’t get involved in something, then the things that they will get involved in might be something we regret later.”
Walker also works to connect police officers and young men in the neighborhood of his church. He believes changing their attitudes about talking to police when they see something is critical.
“We just really have to look out for one another and begin to report those things that look a little suspicious in our neighborhoods and I really believe we can make a dent in this crime,” says Walker.