Anyone who has observed the Martindale-Brightwood area of Indianapolis will agree that it has seen more than its fair share of crime.
Over the past two weeks alone a series of violent crimes have brought tension to the area and increased already high rates of anxiety among residents who are skittish about standing outside or even stopping their car at a traffic light.
“A lot of people in the neighborhood are in a little despair about what’s going on,” said Abu Henderson, president of the Martindale-Brightwood Neighborhood Association.
Most of the area’s recent crimes have occurred in an area bordered by 38th Street to the North, Arlington Avenue to the East, 25th Street to the South and Fall Creek Parkway to the West.
Since April the area has witnessed a disturbing spike in violent crimes that began with the shooting of two men who attempted to rob people who were partying inside an apartment in the 4400 block of Park Forest Court.
The number of violent crimes increased rapidly during the first week in May, beginning with the discovery of 17-yeard old Raymond Jackson, who was found dead in his car, which had been hit by gunfire.
On May 5 a shooting killed 23-year-old Antonio Simmons near the corner of 38th and Gale. That same evening Ryan Holloway, 30, died from gunshot wounds he suffered following an altercation in the 3600 block of Arthington Blvd.
On May 8 Michael Smith, 40, who was visiting from Evansville, was found dead with several gunshot wounds near 38th and Dearborn streets.
Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams, speaking at the scene of Simmons’ shooting, said the entire city must come together to find permanent solutions to prevent homicides.
“Every time something like this happens it breaks my heart,” he said. “It’s tragic to the city and devastating to the family. What we’re trying to do is get our hands around what happened so we can promote peace and non-violence. We’ve just got to get to the attitudes of these young people that violence is not the answer.”
Henderson believes city officials, specifically the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, have been out of touch with the challenges of Martindale- Brightwood. He also says prevention efforts and responses to violent crime by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) have been weak.
“It’s been that way for quite a while,” said Henderson, his voice trailing off in resignation.
Capt. Phil Burton, field captain for IMPD’s North District, said the department is completing training for a class of new officers and has launched specialized units to respond directly to troubled areas in Martindale-Brightwood.
“We have increased our presence as much as possible given our limited manpower and resources,” said Burton. “But rest assured our officers are out there making sure the county is safe.”
Burton added that the department has also launched several Crime Watch groups and reached out to residents by visiting various neighborhood meetings.
Sgt. Paul Thompson, a spokesman for IMPD, noted that the department has a station in the Martindale-Brightwood area just East of 30th and Keystone Ave., and has arrested key suspects in recent shootings that have taken place in the area since last year.
Two of them, Jerry Emerson, 32 and Samuel Fancher, 25, were arrested last week as suspects in the shooting death of Ryan Sampson, who was killed in the 2500 block of North Gale.
Thompson said Emerson has been a person of interest in several murders.
“Many people don’t know who he is but those who do feared him,” said Thompson. “His arrest could have a positive impact on the neighborhood. Once he was taken into custody we went all weekend without a call to the area.”
Rev. Fitzhugh Lyons, president of the Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance, believes crime in the area has remained essentially the same and police have responded sufficiently to it overall.
“They’ve been doing the best they can to react to it, at least as far as I can see,” said Lyons, who is also pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Martindale-Brightwood.
Lyons and Henderson noted that creating preventative solutions to crime requires not just the efforts of police, but residents and community groups as well. Lyons said his alliance partners with service organizations to present alternatives to those at risk for crime, such as people who are unemployed and tempted by the fast money of drugs.
Burton agreed with Lyons, saying “We need the community just as much as it needs us because we can’t be everywhere at the same time. We ask them to be our eyes and ears when an officer is not present.”
Burton added that residents can help keep their neighborhood safe by making themselves less of a target for criminals, avoiding taking the law into their own hands, and immedietly reporting suspicious activity by dialing 911 or calling IMPD’s non-emergency number, (317) 327-3811