Hogsett, IMPD open to consultant suggestions for curbing murder trend

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis reached a grim milestone Tuesday night with the recording of the city’s 200th homicide victim for 2020, a total thought unthinkable even a year ago.

IMPD’s 2020 homicide clearance rate is 46%, inclusive of past cases resolved this year and deaths determined to be self-defense or non-criminal, leaving approximately 178 murders on the books with more than one hundred murder defendants housed inside the Marion County Jail awaiting trial.

The City County Council is poised to allocate nearly $1.4 million to spread among councilors for targeted crime prevention spending in their specific districts while the city and the mayor’s office expect to spend more than $3 million in the coming year on annually funded programs.

During a morning briefing with reporters, Mayor Joe Hogsett alluded to some slumping violent crime and property crime rates as proof that the funding has not been wasted despite the record setting homicide total.

The mayor also highlighted additional funding for IMPD in the 2021 city budget to fully staff the force if enough recruits can be counted on to fill the ranks of retiring officers.

Both Hogsett and IMPD are banking on the work of consultants from the New York University Law School to help “reimagine” policing in Indianapolis and develop operational and philosophical shifts that would permit officers to spend more time focusing on violent crime and less on service-oriented duties.

“According to NYU, about 44% of our runs involve non-criminal activities,” said IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey. “For instance, alarm runs where 98% of the alarm runs are false alarms. Vehicle crashes with no injury.”

Bailey also singled out burglary runs where IMPD officers essentially fill out reports for insurance purposes.

“There are people in our community who are used to seeing our officers and want that face-to-face service and interaction in the community, so there’s going to have to be a paradigm shift in the community to say, ‘Our focus is gonna be more on reducing violent crime and so those customer service or face-to-face interactions that you get on a burglary report or a particular crash may not actually occur like it has in the past,’” said Bailey. “Self-reporting on line and more civilian non-sworn personnel to respond to things like crashes and evidence technician runs and things like that are things that we look at.”

IMPD is hopeful the NYU study will direct the department to more integrated data collection so that its limited number of officers will be more focused on discovering and solving true violent crime.

“Our beat officers, we want them to be community oriented and focused but they have to be in the right places at the right time and that’s being visible in those places so in order to do that we have to make sure that they’re not constantly chasing their tails going from run-to-run-to-run with things maybe they shouldn’t be responding to,” said Bailey.

IMPD has recently started deploying body worn cameras to all its street officers in an attempt to document and improve behaviors of both sworn personnel and the community.

Bailey said IMPD won’t return to a strategy that was tried a few years ago to swarm a high crime neighborhood with officers in order to track dangerous suspects using the law abiding residents as cover.

“I know for a fact it’s not one that the community supports,” he said. “I think we’re seeing some of the results of that type of policing where we treat everybody in a zip code or a neighborhood exactly the same. We stop everything that moves and the goal is to make as many arrests as possible. Our focus now can be on the micro spots within those neighborhoods. It may be one, two, three houses, it may be a block, but even on that block it may be just three or four people and that’s what the Crime Gun Intelligence Center does so well.”

Bailey said CGIC has been successful in tracking and identifying crime guns and their owners and strategically removing them off the streets to refer them for criminal charges, sometimes at the federal level.

As to why Indianapolis homicides have exploded this year, Bailey said he and police commanders all across the country faced with the same dilemma are stumped to understand its origin.

“There’s something that’s happened that’s caused some of this to blow up.”

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