INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are spotlighting how the department plans to expand the use of technology to try and improve public safety.
IMPD insists the increased use of technology not only helps solve cases, but in some instances also prevents violence.
In mid-April, public safety cameras began tracking a group of juveniles downtown after 911 calls reported fights in the area and one teen carrying a firearm.
That footage allowed police to arrest a 15-year-old suspect who tried to elude officers and hid a rifle under a parked car.
A rifle magazine that fit the rifle was in the juvenile’s possession along with some suspected marijuana.
The 15-year-old was arrested for dangerous possession of a firearm and possession of marijuana.
“The reality is this is helping us today,” IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams said. “I mean this is making our community safer.”
In another case, following a shooting this month on Dearborn, officers used a drone to spot a heat signature which helped them apprehend a suspect who was trying to hide next to a car.
“The drone operator was able to give turn-by-turn directions to the K-9 team where the suspect was located at,” said IMPD Sgt. Ron Shelnutt.
Police claim that sort of drone footage is helping officers avoid violent confrontations.
“They are amazing de-escalation tools and it’s become one of the primary functions of the program, to de-escalate situations and provide situational awareness,” said Shelnutt.
“These things are definitely needed,” said IMPD Chief Randal Taylor. “The drone program is amazing.”
Some of the programs and technology IMPD provided an update on during Wednesday’s event included:
Auxiliary remote pilot program
Officials with the IMPD said that the department currently has 18 drones and 13 pilots after the program initially got its start in 2018. According to the release, the program gives officers the chance to have “a birds-eye view” when locating a suspect.
In the 2024 budget, the department is asking for an addition of 30 drones, as well as the ability to train and outfit 30 officers for the program. Officials said this would ensure 24-hour availability of the program.
Automated license plate readers
In 2023, IMPD added 63 automated license plate readers, bringing the department’s total to 321. This technology has given the department the ability to have leads when a vehicle is used in a crime, and officials have said the technology has been useful in calls like missing person cases and homicides.
Officials said that in the 2024 proposed budget, IMPD will look to add up to 150 additional readers throughout the city.
Mobile trailer cameras and public safety cameras
In 2023, the department added six new mobile trailer cameras to the fleet, bringing its total number to 12. These cameras equate to about 60 views. These devices, according to the release, allow the department to stream video in real-time to identify “high-risk behavior by armed individuals, dispatching officers and de-escalating situations.”
The department also reported that it has added 32 public safety cameras, bringing its total to nearly 100 cameras with around 250 views. Officials said these cameras provide the same benefits as a mobile trailer camera but at a fixed location.
In the department’s 2024 budget, IMPD wants to add up to 50 cameras throughout the city.
Officials said B-link technology is a partnership between the department and the Indy Public Safety Foundation. This allows business owners to register their existing security cameras with IMPD and grant them livestream access.
Officials said this is in operation with around 60 businesses. In 2023, 30 new partners have been added. According to the release, more businesses are expected to be added by the end of the year.
Gunshot detection technology
Last year the city tested a gunshot detection system. A final report analyzing those results has been completed, but so far the department has not made a financial commitment to deploy gunshot detection moving forward.
IMPD is currently in the procurement process. A gunshot selection committee reviewed data and is finalizing the vendor selection. Purchasing could then begin contract negotiations with the selected vendor.
“At some point, we’ll have to make that decision,” Taylor said. “If it makes sense for the city of Indianapolis. It’s not cheap.”
The presentation comes before the department’s planned 2024 budget presentation in which “significant funding is proposed” for some of this technology. The department is going before the city’s public safety committee on Wednesday night.
Jesse Wells contributed to this report.