North side neighbors band together to battle crime

Neighbors in some north side neighborhoods are also being vigilant about crime.
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Concerns over rising and violent crime are coming from an unexpected part of Indianapolis.

On the far north side, in the seemingly "nice" neighborhoods, the Nora Community Council expects explanations and solutions Thursday night from the police chief and public safety director.

You would think families living in upscale homes with nice yards aren't at all worried about crime - and you would be wrong.

"Should Nora worry about gangs and drugs? " Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry asked a room full of Nora residents gathered at Saint Luke's United Methodist Church Thursday night.

Dozens came out for the community meeting to hear the answer to that very question.

They certainly got it.

"The answer is yes," said Curry.

Nora, on the city's north side, might seem like the last place you'd expect residents to worry about crime, but the residents do. At the meeting, law enforcement told them they should.

"We can't be apathetic if a crime is committed in any segment of our community and we have to be personally offended if someone does commit a crime and an act of violence in the great city of Indianapolis," Public Safety Director Troy Riggs told the group.

"I don't think anyone is immune," said Nora resident Connie Douglass.

Douglass and her husband got a security system after last year's violent home invasions on the north side.

"I think it's everywhere. It's just people who don't see a future. I think they are lost," said Douglass.

"If its Nora, if it's Haughville, if it's Indianapolis. I'm a part of it," said Dorothy Miller. "So whatever affects you will eventually affect me."

Miller doesn't even live in Nora, but came to Thursday's meeting anyway to hear what city leaders had to say.

"I'm concerned about the tragedies we are having in this city. Something has to be done," said Miller.

The answer, according to city leaders, is partly more police on the streets, but law enforcement also explained there's more to it than that.

"We cannot do it alone. We have to deal with social issues that are plaguing major cities throughout this nation," said Riggs.

In Indianapolis, according to officials, those issues are heroin, gangs and guns.

"I think we all need to be concerned," said Douglass when she heard that.

Those gathered said they were concerned, too, and would continue to be, but they've vowed to do something about it, like staying active in neighborhood crime watches and calling police if they see anything that seems out of place.

"I can't afford to move. I'm not going anywhere, but you're not going to openly come and do bad things in my neighborhood," said Miller.

Kim Schmitz, her husband and two children have lived on Stafford Lane for 15 years.

"I am so cautious about everything, but not in a paranoid way," Schmitz said.

Schmitz does worry about someone breaking in at night. Since two brutal home invasions last year, a neighbor was robbed, another found a gun on their front lawn, she takes extra precautions.

"I keep a cell phone by my bed now where I didn't before," Schmitz explained. "Just in case I need to get someone quickly. I bring golf clubs up to the bedroom."

Down the block, we found Candice Vogel walking her dog. She doesn't walk at night any more without Agatha.

"No, no it is too dangerous," she said. "Crime is expanding."

Yes, those home invasions were a tragic wake-up call, but in addition to finding more criminals with guns, police say they are seeing more gang activity and more drugs, heroin in particular.

Vogel sees the problem.

"Young men with drugs, bad childhoods," she said. "Chips on their shoulder and a gun. That's a bad combination."

The same things scaring people in this Greenbriar neighborhood are the same things scaring people in high-crime areas. The difference, though, may be what neighbors here are doing about it.

"I feel safe," insisted Karen Overpeck.

She says neighbors act like neighbors. They look out for each other. If an unfamiliar truck appears at someone's home during the day, "Because I know you are working, I'm calling the cops," Overpeck said. "I hope you would do I for me to."

It's that "See something, say something" attitude that is straight from the crime-fighting playbook of Public Safety Director Troy Riggs.

"I want to explain to them what we are doing, crimes they are facing and ask for their assistance," Riggs explained before the community meeting.

That's not a problem from what we've seen along Stafford Lane.