IMPD leadership talks about violent weekend, solutions
The flashing police lights and crime scene tape are images that are becoming all too common in Indianapolis neighborhoods.
"Anytime there's a loss of life in our city that's something that really troubles us," IMPD Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs told Eyewitness News.
Starting late Friday night and continuing into Sunday, nine people were shot in Marion County. Of that number, three people had died by Sunday afternoon.
The spring time violence makes Riggs concerned about what the spring and summer months may bring.
"There's always a fear when you have warm weather and there's more people out moving around, you're going to have that; but if you look at some of the data we are compiling within the police department, you'll see that a lot of the people are moving behind closed doors. A lot of the violence is happening inside. I believe we are in excess of over 40 percent of our homicides being behind closed doors," Riggs explained Sunday.
"We have a group of individuals that do not hold in high esteem human life. And that's something new that we haven't dealt with in this city and across this nation," he said.
Neighbors have watched in shock as their communities become riddled with violence and Riggs says stopping it is even more difficult than before.
"There are people who do not value human life and have taken way to many lives in Indianapolis recently," Riggs said.
Teaching people to resolve issues without guns has to be a community push that stretches beyond the police department, Riggs said.
Teams of police officers spend hours at crime scenes, making the violence a costly problem as well.
"It is expensive because you have your detectives there, but not only that, you have to have officers there to secure the scene, sometimes these scenes are unruly, so you are taking officers away from their normal work and that's taking them away from providing safety elsewhere. It is a monumental task," Riggs explained.
Also a monumental task: stopping the violence. Police said community involvement is perhaps the best way to get people to put the guns down and resolving things peacefully.
"One of the things we have to do as a city is we have to realize this is a community effort. The issues that we are facing as a community are issues that a police department can't solve on its own. So we need people to step up and help us solve cases and to report crime," Riggs explained.
Violent crime also takes a toll on responding officers.
"The other expense is just the expense to our workforce; the things that they see and the things that they have to endure. It's tough to be a police officer and it's even tougher when you're dealing with issues like this," Riggs explained.
A major factor in the problem of violent crime in Indianapolis has to do with drug usage, according to Riggs.
"We need the community to realize that heroin is a rising problem and we have to deal with that. We have to deal with that in our families and in our churches and we have to find ways to handle that," Riggs said.
Getting people help and rehabilitation is another push. Police firsthand have felt the implications of heroin.
"We had four SWAT officers that were shot because heroin was being sold, so we're seeing that as a rising trend," he explained.
IMPD said heroin usage is on the rise across the city.
"We lost 110 people last year to heroin deaths in this city. We lost another 168 to suicide. We have some social issues that we have to deal with and that is why we've called upon the community to have community conversations," he said.
Community conversations also talk about the need for education in society, and how dangerous poverty is to a community.
"The issues we are facing today didn't develop over the last six months or a year; it's developed over decades. We cannot continue to be apathetic about people receiving good education. We cannot be apathetic about poverty. We cannot be apathetic about any crime is committed in our community. We need to work together to solve these issues," Riggs said.
IMPD leadership is trying to beef up jail sentences for convicted criminals.
"Individuals are not in jail long enough," Riggs explained.
As a result, he says people are less likely to speak out about what they see at crime scenes, especially if they are a victim.
"One of the troubling statistics we see is that 55 percent of all shooting victims will not cooperate with police. We have to have better cooperation. Fifty-five percent of our shooting victims won't cooperate with us because they are fearful of retribution. They see an officer arrest someone and that individual goes to jail and comes right back out and they are fearful of retribution. We have to do a better job keeping some of these individuals that use weapons in jail longer," Riggs said.
He said the hope is that if people are locked up longer, more victims and witnesses will speak up.
"We are working through the state house right now and the mayor and the police chief are leading the charge on mandatory minimum sentencing, so if you use a weapon in a violent crime that means you are going to have to go through at least 20 years in jail. That's something we're working on and we're working with the state senate and the house to try to get that passed," Riggs explained.
Overall crime is down
"It surprises people when we tell them that aggravated assaults and shootings were actually down last year in the city of Indianapolis," Riggs said.
He said current data finds those crimes are also trending down this year.
However, Riggs explained there is an increase in aggravated assault.
"Sometimes the only difference between aggravated assault and a homicide is where the bullet landed or how soon medical aide can get to an individual," he explained.
Police stress the importance of their anonymous tip line, saying it is crucial to get tips from people to stop the violence. Every tip, no matter how small it may seem, can be a huge part in solving these crimes and keeping the criminals behind bars. Anyone with any tips can leave those details anonymously by calling (317) 262-8477.