Wednesday, August 09, 2006

91 for the Year: We've Got a Problem

To those of us who live on the northside of downtown, the violent crime wave is old news. The bodies have been piling up all summer. Indianapolis has been well ahead of last year's murder count since April with seemingly no notice. The media, the mayor and the IPD seem to be the last to know. Only in the last week has the prosecutor even jumped on the bandwagon. Up until now, he's been releasing criminals early while not pushing for more jail space. (Becuase, you know, from Brizzi's perspective, locking them up is the only solution, but that's a whole other rant.).

Those of us who live downtown, the near northside, old northside, and points east live within a few blocks of questionable neighborhoods on all sides. This summer -- for the entire summer -- roving bands of teenagers and young men in their late 20s have taken over streets on bicycles, spilled over sidewalks into crowded traffic or just made it difficult to get through intersections like 30th and College. Cars that barely run straddle lanes or stop in mid-street so their occupants can chat with people outside. There's never any traffic enforcement and up until a week or two ago (when someone was shot at a Starbucks at 30th and Fall Creek Parkway) little to no police presence. In the past few months, there's certainly not been police presence relative to the crime spike over last year's statistics. Contrary to what the media would tell you, this crime wave isn't new. It's been going on all year, seemingly ignored. It's finally just escalated enough to get attention.

Whether Peterson and Brizzie offer real solutions that will work or whether they turn it into a polical blame game, at least people are talking. My questions? Where is the IPD in all this? Why haven't they taken the leadership on this issue? And last night, I was disgusted as I turned to the evening news to see the lead story -- penguins from the Indianapolis Zoo were injurerd in an truck accident in Texas. Who the fuck cares?! (I forgot the news editing rule: Cute animals trump murder every time. People will actually donate money for penguin recovery but not spend a dime on neighborhood cleanup.) Murders have occurred blocks from my home and from the homes of my friends. A man on his bicycle, men and women in their cars, a young man in an alley. And I'm not hearing any real talking about the elephant in the room -- the root cause of the violence.

** NPR has been featuring a "Portrait on Poverty" series on Africa. What about a "Portrait on Poverty" series on the United States. Why can't we focus on fixing poverty and education here at home which will help keep all of us safer. Hope will trump violence. June's killings occurred because the shooters believed there was money in the house, that the people who lived there had something they didn't, something they wanted. Their solution? Take it.

** Indiana has to acknowledge that it has an issue with race. We have to acknowledge that a large population of young, black men drop out of school, fail to get or keep minimum wage jobs, and resort to violence. They have no hope of education or a future, not to mention their ability to support their children.

** What's gentrification got to do with it? Potentially much. Fall Creek Place's three (and soon to be four) phases have pushed out tremendous numbers of people who were used to a certain security and community in a large, low-income neighborhood. I think gentrification has been great for the city, but you can't just ignore the larger issues. As a large part of the Near Northside and Fall Creek Place have become havens for young couples, first time home buyers, empty nesters, renovators, and new condo dwellers, these communities see what's been "taken" from them symbolized by new residents with more money, nicer cars, and new homes. There's no boundary for the violence and it's spilled over into these new neighborhoods ringed with old community nightclubs and housing.

** Can we blame the heat? It's possible. There is some truth to the idea that the extreme heat may be causing a bit of a summer meltdown. However, it's more likely attibutable to more people spending more time out of doors in the evening when it cools off. Poor people don't have air conditioning.

** Paging Melina Kennedy. I'd say if she doesn't make a strong appearance in the next couple of weeks, Melina Kennedy's race may be over well before election day. Carl Brizzi is a smart political animal and will make every solution an advantage for him in November. If Kennedy want's to play up his failings, she'd better get some news time on it. They won't be there for long.

** No one's talking about the real problem. No one. The Star today has a decent piece on the disproportionate number of young, black men involved with the crime wave. They also have comments and advice from several sources such as Steve Campbell and Frank Anderson. But encouraging the African Amerian community to police itself and fix the problem doesn't mean it's going to happen. Everyone is standing around saying "this is what needs to happen" but very few are actually willing to step up to the plate.

** More taxes? More police? More hours? More jail? The city solution is to throw more police at the problem. It's certainly a start, but it wasn't without a warning that it would cost us. (The Star even ran a story over the weekend on the large cost overruns in overtime IPD has accumulated so far this year. ) More policing is part of the answer. Better policing is the other.

** Want to know more? For a refreshing take on race in America and what it will take to move forward, read John McWhorter's Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America (Gotham, 2005). He's a smart, black college professor who is one of the first to say he doesn't get some elements of today's racial movements and give all Americans -- black and white -- a road map for moving forward.


At Wed Aug 09, 10:29:00 AM, Blogger Jason266 said...

I have nothing to add. You hit on every notion that my little brain has had...heat, race relations, gentrification...and then some. Kudos on the best write-up I've seen on the recent crime wave.

At Wed Aug 09, 04:07:00 PM, Anonymous Vanessa said...

I have family that lives in the 500 block of North Hamilton, where the June shootings occurred. I was just there yesterday, and I noticed the young men playing basketball in the street. I believe the near Eastside is the worst I've ever seen it.

I see fewer cops in the area now than before the shootings. I'm starting to wonder if the police officers are afraid to patrol the areas. Everybody showed up for the photo ops, but now it's forgotten again.

We live in the Garfield Park area, and I know it's just a matter of time before the murders spill into our area. We haven't had that many in South District, but we aren't immune.

At Wed Aug 09, 11:25:00 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Instead of the penguin piece, this post should be on the front page of the Star. As a longtime Meridian Park resident, this is the very first time that I've really begun to feel unsafe in my neighborhood.

I'm glad that you brought up the issue of gentrification and poverty. When Fall Creek Place first started to go up, my very first thought was, "Where are all the low income people going to go?" I am all for urban renewal, but people need to start worrying more about fighting poverty. I know that's much easier said than done. Perhaps it would give people in this country perspective if they were forced to live in a poor neighborhood for a few months.

At Thu Aug 10, 10:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"where will the poor people go?"

how about to birth control clinics?

how about staying in school and getting an education?

or, let's just let the young punks kill each other off.

At Sat Aug 12, 12:50:00 PM, Blogger braingirl said...

I was going to moderate the above comment, but really, idiocy like that should stand so everyone can see it.

At Sat Aug 12, 02:07:00 PM, Blogger Brian D. said...

Anonymous' statement on staying in school and getting and education is actually good. The rest...


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