INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 20, 2015)-- Tough kids, or kids who want everyone to think they’re tough, brag about their origins in the South Butler-Tarkington community, specifically the corner of East 40th Street and Boulevard Place.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) arrested several suspects in the "Operation Family Ties" drug ring there last winter and in the last two months, four people have been murdered in the surrounding area.
Gunshots and drugs flourish just blocks away from the campus of Butler University.
40th and Boulevard Place is where IMPD Sergeant Josh Barker came to make new friends now that his police chief and district commander have both promised the neighbors that things are going to change in the community.
“We are trying to engage people. A lot of foot patrols, a lot of bike patrols, a lot of directed patrols and we’re encouraging our officers to get out and talk to people,” said Barker outside the Allure Barber Shop where Fred Richardson sat lathered up for a shave.
“We have been part of the problem in the fact that we look the other way sometimes as homeowners, as neighbors, you see something wrong and you don’t call the police,” said Richardson. “We’re not backing down. We’re pushing back and we will call the police. We’ll point fingers. We’ll call names cuz we’re working with the police as close as possible and we’re not afraid. Point, blank and period. We’re not afraid.”
Richardson and barber Allen Solomon were among the men in the neighborhood who banded together under the banner WADE, Working Against Devils Everyday, to sponsor a peace rally and bring a truce to the community after the killing of Malik Perry, 19, last week.
That rally attracted mayoral candidates Chuck Brewer and Joe Hogsett, Rev. Charles Harrison of the Ten Point Coalition and IMPD Chief Rick Hite and several of his officers.
“It calms the corner down a whole lot,” said Solomon as he trimmed Richardson’s beard with a straight razor. “It's been a rough couple months around here. I’m glad we got the extra IPD around here to stop some of the craziness going around.
“If I see someone going into somebody’s house, I’m going to call somebody because I wouldn’t want nobody to come in my house.”
Abandoned houses were on the mind of Antonio Lipscomb when Sgt. Barker gave him the name of a city contact to address the problem of empty properties that need rehabilitation.
“A lot of times we ask, how can you combat crime? When you ask people to take a gun out of their hand, what are you putting back in it?” said Lipscomb. “If they’re not going to college and put a book in their hand, we need to put a hammer in their hand.”
Barker said not only will a dedicated narcotics unit begin investigating the drug trade on the southend of the Butler-Tarkington community, nuisance abatement and code violations officers will also be turning their attention to the neighborhood north of 38th Street and west of Illinois Street.
During a community meeting Monday night, Chief Hite listed dozens of runs and addresses that have been chronic headaches for police and neighbors and encouraged residents to take an active role in saving their own community.
Hite’s officers have been called to a nearby McDonald’s more than 150 times since the start of the year.
North District Commander Chris Bailey warned residents that his officers would begin making more frequent traffic stops, not to write tickets, but rather to search for guns and wanted persons with open warrants in an attempt to protect the area from wrongdoing, but it's worth noting, officers don’t live in that neighborhood 24/7.
“It's one thing for a neighbor to say, ‘I think that a neighbor or the house next door to me is dealing drugs,’” said Barker, “But if they can say, ‘I think the house next door to me is dealing drugs and the guy’s name is this, or his nickname is this, or here’s the car he drives, here’s the description, here’s the hours of operation, here’s a plate number, this is how many people live there,’ those specific types of information is what allows us to take those type of complaints and assign those to detectives so that they can follow up on those specific leads.”
Freshly shaven, Fred Richardson said he will make that call.
“We’re going to protect kids,” he said. “We’re going to protect our women and our old people.”