Improved technology, data analysis helps IMPD turn corner on crime

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Before Oct. 4, no one had ever paid much attention to Ronald McLain.

“Recently we encountered a subject through a traffic stop. The subject fled and left behind six handguns and one rifle as well as illegal narcotics,” said IMPD Lt. Matt Thomas. “A second traffic stop was conducted by the Indiana State Police. The subject fled again. Another illegally possessed firearm was recovered.”

Through improved gun evidence recovery practices in the field and the sharing of criminal intelligence with federal and state partners, the IMPD SWAT team raided an apartment in the 3200 block of North Illinois Street Monday and took McLain into custody.

“So we have four different incidents that were linked through forensics besides the traffic stops,” said Thomas. “Three of those were incidents of gun violence, two incidents where shots were fired into a house. One incident of domestic violence.”

McLain's troubles didn’t end with the arrest by IMPD SWAT officers. His case has been transferred to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana and on Wednesday, McLain was indicted on federal drug and firearms charges. He can now be held without bond and face potentially stiffer sentences if convicted in U.S. District Court.

Ronald McLain

More than 175 local cases have been referred to federal authorities for prosecution this year.

“We’ve identified a need to improve our communication with partner agencies, state, local and federal, and be able to do that in real time,” said Thomas, “be able to pick up the telephone and call somebody at ten o’clock on a Saturday night and get those resources in play immediately.”

The FBI reported this fall that overall crime was down 6.5 percent in Indianapolis in 2017 as compared to the year before.

IMPD’s 2017 Annual Report, released this week, tracked the decline in crime across the city and highlighted improved data and intelligence analysis, gun seizures and investigations and stubborn clearance rates for violent and property crimes.

Mayor Joe Hogsett and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach this week unveiled the $35 million upgrade to the city’s computer-aided dispatch and records management system that will provide first responders with more timely information as they roll up to the scene of an emergency.

“It allows them to make decisions better and it allows them to be more informed as they approach the run,” said Roach.  “We’ve talked about and talked about wanting to be more real time-focused so having an understanding that when a detective goes to a non-fatal shooting or a homicide, him having all the information that he needs during his investigation rather than having to take time to do that research so that information is flowing to him. As officers arrive on a run they’re getting more information than they have in the past.”

IMPD is currently in the process of hiring data and real time crime analysts to better pinpoint crime trends and suspects while its Save-A-Cop program to enhance the collection of gun evidence in the field is being copied by police departments across the nation.

The twice-monthly Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership meetings identify specific offenders as investigators develop cross-agency responses to make arrests as the city attempts to turn the corner on violent crime as Indianapolis is poised for the third year in a row to match or set  a new homicide record.

“Where we all have a better understanding of how information like this can be useful in investigations and can solve current and cold cases, can reduce future incidents, identify new suspects, there’s a lot of avenues and opportunity here by improving our processes,” said Thomas, “and I believe we made those investments where we’re going to see those utilized and many of cases in the future that will shorten timespans of investigations, increase results, increase communications so I believe those investments are crucial to this process.”

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