IMPD debuts new tool to fight abusers

IMPD debuts new tool to fight abusers
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Starting this week, Indianapolis Metro Police will activate a new weapon to catch more abusers and rapists. IMPD is one of the few police departments in the nation using the new technology.

Most days of the week, police rush to the scene of crimes. Many are domestic violence runs that turn volatile and sometimes deadly, even for officers.

Nearly one year ago, IMPD Officer Rod Bradway lost his life - shot to death - while saving a woman from her armed boyfriend. In the last year, there were nearly 5,000 domestic abuse calls to a Central Indiana hotline, an increase of 34 percent.

"This is a growing trend. It's not going away and it's becoming epidemic," said Det. Steve Renzulli, IMPD detective.

Det. Renzulli works in a place with a close connection to abuse victims: the IMPD Domestic Violence Police Unit. It's housed inside the Julian Center, an emergency shelter.

"Tons of these cases come across our desk and a very, very small percentage end up getting prosecuted and punished," he explained.

That's his frustration because even when abuse victims say they were hit or strangled, the evidence is not always obvious.

"In over 60% of those cases, there are no external signs of injury," said Linda Major, Marion County prosecutor's office. "Even though you may not see anything externally, there are cases where victims have died days, weeks and even years later, as a result of injury from strangulation."

Major is the director of Domestic Violence Initiatives for the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. As a deputy prosecutor, she's determined to get more abusers off the streets, especially those who strangle.

"One out of every four runs an officer takes for domestic violence involves an incident of strangulation," she said.

Major says it's one of the strongest precursors to murder.

IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutors' office are piloting a new weapon that will gather more evidence to convict criminals. It's a camera called Illumacam 2, shining a special forensic light on victims' injuries.

"It's going to combine different light sources, wavelengths and spectrums to penetrate actual layers of the skin and bring bruising to the surface," Major said. "It's gonna capture things not necessarily visible to the naked eye."

In one picture, a bruise turns into better evidence under Illumacam 2. In another, the camera shines more light on evidence for rape victims. Bodily fluids such as semen are more prominent under the camera's lens.

"Anything that helps us win cases, it's good in my book," said Major.

For abuse victims like Renita Hills, this new weapon on the Indianapolis streets is empowering.

"It's a closer step to us getting free from abuse," Hills.

Twelve years ago, her estranged husband stabbed her 13 times in front of her five-year old daughter.

"Four stab wounds to the chest, two of which punctured both my lungs. They were punched and collapsed," she said.

"This is going to help us to prosecute some of these people before a life is taken or before they have to be hospitalized," said Major.

Prosecutors say the camera won't solve everything, but it will hold more criminals accountable and save more lives. A federal grant is funding the new cameras.

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