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IMPD officers fighting crime with food

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A new program for IMPD's east district started Monday that will equip officers with food for people in need.

The bags from the Community Action Relief Effort, or CARE, will also help officers connect with residents when they're patrolling the city's streets.

Bags were put together with food from Gleaners Food Bank. Each bag contains enough food for 12 to 16 meals. When the program began Monday, there were 162 bags ready to hand out and 800 more soon to follow.

"This is a good way to detour crime," one IMPD officer told CBS4. "A lot of people out here are hungry. They don't have anything. And it bridges that gap between civilians and police."

Leaders with Gleaners said stopping hunger in the city can lead to less crime.

"There's a direct connection between crime and hunger," Gleaners President and CEO John Elliott said. "Hunger might be the reason for theft. There's a lot of back and forth and connection between people who are choosing between medicine and food, paying for transportation and food, even housing and food at times."

The bags contain non-perishable food items, but no can items in case the bags sit in an officer's car for an extended period of time during extreme cold or warm weather. The CARE bags program is an expansion of the city's CARE mobile food pantries that began in 2015.

"We're trying to get a very well-balanced meal," said Kathy Hahn Keiner, the chief program and community collaborations officer at Gleaners.

While the food may help a family for a few days, the bags also contain some information cards. It includes a 2-1-1 card to help people find further assistance if it's needed.

"This is something that is immediately available for officers to help," said Keiner. "We wanted something long-term as well. We know that IMPD is looking for long-term solutions, too."

Elliott said the city's plan to address hunger began when Troy Riggs served as the city's public safety director and even though Riggs is no longer in that position, the current administration has not changed its stance on the issue.

"This program and some of the other activities, really position us well as a community to solve some problems and help lift people out of poverty and challenges," he said. "Rather than temporary support and more temporary support and their circumstance may not change."

CARE bags are only available for officers in the east district. The program will be tested for six months and then be evaluated. If the city thinks it can make an impact, Gleaners, the city and other organizations will look for ways to fund the program.

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