INDIANAPOLIS– There have been 13 homicides in 13 months in a slice of IMPD’s North District west of Keystone Avenue and south of 38th Street, which is way IMPD Commander Michael Wolley led a handful of bicycle officers on two wheels through the neighborhoods that make up some of Indianapolis’ most violent communities.
“It’s really refreshing to walk through these communities and people come off of their stairs just to talk to us first and then they give us a little information about what’s going on in the neighborhood,” said Wolley after a stop in the 2700 block of Baltimore Avenue, “and those are those important conversations, those are the moments that matter where we can truly talk about solving problems in their communities.”
After the police bicycle driveby, neighbors Trina Beck and Stephanie Watkins said they have a number of problems just down the street from where a woman was found shot to death in her car last weekend.
“I’m scared to even sit out in the front yard anymore. You know, we had a shootout a few years ago. I got bullet holes in my house. That’s never happened before. She’s got one in hers,” said Beck, pointing to Watkins’ house.
“We need help,” said her neighbor. “We been here for years and we didn’t have all of this and pay attention to the drug trafficking, the apartments down there, it’s like nobody cares and a lot of riff raff and stuff is down there in them apartments and down here on this end drugs and everything and whatever is going on. We need help. We need help.”
Watkins directed her ire at the New Bridge Apartments south of her neighborhood where a volunteer peace advocate was shot to death last winter and Blackburn Terrace to the east which has been the site of several murders and shootings in the last year.
“I do think that not every single neighborhood but many neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis now realize that it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to do our part to make our neighborhoods safer,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett after a stop at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Martindale Brightwood branch on North Sherman Drive when I asked about his plans to reduce crime this summer. “We will continue to invest in Project Indy which is our annual summer jobs program to get young people meaningful employment opportunities over the course of the summer and it also happens to be I think a pretty darn good crime reduction initiative. We’ll also have more safe summer initiatives throughout our IMPD districts, particularly in the more densely populated neighborhoods of our city. Our PAL program is gonna be in full swing as soon as school lets out.”
Hogsett and IMPD Chief Randal Taylor are expected to announce their summer initiative next week.
Out on bike patrol, Wolley said that while COVID-19 restrictions hindered IMPD outreach last year, pandemic shutdown orders also kept potential combatants in the house and away from each while simultaneously raising the stress level among near northeast side residents and adding to the number of domestic violence runs officers responded to.
“COVID kind of hit which hindered a number of our community engagement opportunities and those discussions with community members,” said Wolley, “and I think by reigniting those conversations, being out here focused on coming up with solutions for what’s going on out here, we’ll really start to dig into this crime issue out here.
“You got a lot of people who are coming off the restrictions of COVID and are out there and being active now and so that’s why it’s really important that we get out in front of this and start communicating and talking to people.”
IMPD has now investigated 80 homicides in 2021, twenty more than on this date last year when the city was on its way to a new annual homicide record.