INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Fletcher Triplett has a very simple way to determine whether crime is down in the Brightwood community, where he’s lived his entire life.
“I say it’s getting better,” said Triplett standing outside his Mackida TRIP Mentoring Center in the 2600 block of North Sherman Drive. “I haven’t been to a funeral in a while, so that’s a good thing.”
Brightwood is in the heart of IMPD’s North District, one of the most dangerous parts of Indianapolis’ north side.
Last year, while the city was setting yet another new murder record of 159 criminal homicides, North District patrol officers first rolled up on 42 murders.
Sixteen times, homicide detectives locked up a suspect. Eight homicide cases were cleared or determined to be non-criminal.
Triplett said over the last year, his neighbors have had enough.
“They’re tired of it, mothers burying their sons, their kids, and just seeing that we’re losing a lot of people out here on these streets and the neighborhood, the people out here are tired of it.”
While Triplett and his brother Terry have led community walks and cleanups over the last year as millions of dollars have been poured into a new Indianapolis Public Library Branch in Brightwood and ground has been broken for a new charter school at the Edna Martin Christian Center Leadership and Legacy Campus, crime slumped eight percent overall across the city in 2017 and a six percent drop is expected for 2018 once the final numbers are reported March 1.
IMPD’s homicide clearance rate has jumped 25 percent in the last year to 65 percent an improvement attributed to more one-on-one killings resulting from disputes that are more easily investigated and the increased willingness of witnesses and informants to come forward with tips.
“We have a robust witness assistance program that’s available to help witnesses and victims who want to cooperate with our investigations,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Chris Bailey. “We’ve seen more cooperation from our community. I think there are those in our community who are tired of violence and willing to stand up.”
There were 11 more non-fatal shootings in 2018 than the year before.
IMPD reported robbery was down by 550 incidents in 2017 and expects a similar drop once the 2018 statistics are finalized.
“I think that’s a direct result of our covert robbery group working with the districts and the community to identify those serial robbers,” said Bailey whose detectives will expand their focus to burglary investigations in the coming year. “We probably need to pay closer attention to serial burglars. A lot of these criminals may start off as burglars. There’s an opportunity for them to get weapons when they burglarize homes and they take those weapons to the next burglary. They become emboldened. They become robbers and you never know what can happen from there.”
Bailey said IMPD seized more than 3,000 illegally possessed weapons last year and arrested about a third of the more than 100 wanted violent felons targeted by the Indianapolis Violence Reduction Project detectives and federal agents in 2018.
“Every time we take a gun out the hands of someone who has shown through their history and behavior that they are violent, take the gun out of the hands of someone who doesn’t have the legal right to own it, we prevent some sort of crime,” said Bailey. “I’m convinced of that.”
During his initial run for mayor in 2015, Joe Hogsett touted his tenure as a former U.S. Attorney to portray himself as the public safety candidate.
Republicans, who have yet to name a challenger to run against Hogsett’s re-election bid, have blasted his public safety record in the face of the rising homicide statistics.
Hogsett also promised that he would add hundreds of new police officers to the streets with manpower topping out at about 1,750 by the last day of his first term in office this coming December 31.
Through an aggressive recruitment and hiring campaign, IMPD is aiming to bring 150 new officers on board in two recruit classes to offset the predicted retirements of 71 policemen and women this year thus approaching the mayor’s anticipated manpower total.
IMPD will cohost a recruitment event with the Indiana State Police January 19 at Government Center South.
Hogsett has also directed more money toward community groups focused on crime prevention and hired peacemakers to interact on individual and group projects with residents.
In Brightwood, Fletcher Triplett said he still takes phone calls a month after hosting a toy giveaway for neighbors with too little to put under their holiday trees.
“Over Christmas break we had over 2,000 families here that were able to receive toys and as they were able to receive their toys they were able to open up and talk to us about how we can help in other ways.”
Triplett said he expects to build on that momentum in 2019.