NewsPublic AffairsGovernment / June 25, 2014

Indy Democrats Unveil "Safe Neighborhoods Now"

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Sam Klemet
Indy Democrats Unveil "Safe Neighborhoods Now"

There have already been 75 murders in Indianapolis this year, the most since 2008.

The city is on pace to eclipse 160 in 2014.

Wednesday, Democratic city county councilors rolled out a plan they say will make neighborhoods safer primarily through repairing rundown homes.

Jamey Faulkner has lived in the Mapleton Fall Creek area for the past year and feels comfortable in the neighborhood, but acknowledges crime is not uncommon.

"Prostitution, or at least it appears to be.  You can see a drug deal every now and then," he said.  "You've got some rowdy drunks coming through the neighborhood every now and then.  There was a teenager that died in our alley.  I saw the gunman run away.  So, that was a nervous day."

The issues, especially in vacant homes, worsened as the economy tanked says Leigh Riley Evans, the CEO of Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation.

“Some of these houses people just walked away from," said Riley Evans.  "Jobs left, businesses left, and so the residents left schools, took the kids to different districts. And so, it's a myriad of reasons as to why the houses are vacant now.”

And Riley Evans says not fixing these homes opens the door for even bigger problems.

"When no one cares, then criminals anticipate that no one is going to pay attention, so they start to either squat, or sell drugs there, or just perform their activities in those homes," she said.  "Sometimes they live in those homes because if nobody is going to pay attention they won't know that there is a squatter.  It's the broken window theory and so as long as one window stays broken, people anticipate that no one else cares.”

Now, a group of City Council Democrats wants to rebuild and repair area homes that are owned by the city.

The effort is called "Safe Neighborhoods Now."

At-large councilor Pam Hickman says investing in rundown and boarded up homes will spur further investment in the community.

"Let's say this home gets renovated and it looks really great and somebody builds on this (vacant) lot here and builds a great house, someone will invest in this one and rehab and someone will invest in that one and rehab it and they will sell them," said Hickman.  "It will change the neighborhood."

"Think about if we came down today and all this trash wasn't here what you would think of this neighborhood as opposed to the way it looks today."

The plan calls for initially spending one million dollars in Rebuild Indy funds to rehab five houses.

Part of the initiative is to offer the renovated homes to Indianapolis police officers and Marion County Deputies for free two years. 

After two years, they can choose to purchase the homes.

Rick Snyder with the Fraternal Order of Police says not only is offering free housing a recruiting tool, but having officers live in these high crime neighborhoods can deter incidents.

"By having their presence, the off-duty visibility of their patrol vehicles, as well, there is a value in that in terms of prevention, but also in terms of opening the doors to facilitate communication between police officers and neighbors," said Snyder.  

Democrats plan to introduce the proposal at the council's July 14th meeting. Hickman thinks it will have bipartisan support, but understands there could be some push back.

"I think there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle that see how this will help the neighborhoods and are interested in that," said Hickman.  "I guess one of the side problems to anything in one district is you have councilors who are only interested in their districts at certain times."

"They may not understand the need in another district because they don't live it."

Thursday, Mayor Ballard and Public Safety officials will announce another crime reduction initiative also aimed at making neighborhoods safer this summer.