to report crimes
BY BRANDON A. PERRY
In grade school most kids hesitate to tell teachers about classmates breaking rules, usually out of fear of getting beat up by a bully or being teased as the dreaded “tattle-tale.”
Some individuals carry this apprehension into adulthood by refusing to bring acts of crime in their own neighborhood to the light.
Out of fear of inciting the wrath of criminals or being labeled a “snitch” they remain quiet as neighbors fall victim to burglary, robbery, carjacking, rape and murder. Drug deals taking place on community streets and in abandoned houses also go unchecked.
“Some people have vital information that they’re not sharing with us,” said Sgt. Paul Thompson of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. “There’s almost always someone out there who knows something about a crime that’s been committed.”
Although evidence produced by forensic science is very helpful in arresting violent criminals, officials say information from witnesses also plays a crucial role in bringing them to justice.
“By far the biggest obstacle to solving homicide cases is a lack of willingness from people to come forward and provide critical information,” said Jeff Breedlove, a homicide detective with IMPD.
Local and national police agencies have reported that the two main reasons some people don’t come forward with that they know is fear of retaliation from suspects and apathy.
“We’ve also had people who were wanted themselves and wouldn’t come forward to share information about a more serious crime for concern that they would be arrested,” Thompson said.
Residents of all backgrounds disagree as to whether supplying investigators with information is a service to the community, or violation of a code of “street ethics.”
While strolling with a couple of friends during his last week of summer vacation, Mike King bluntly stated his belief that crime in Indianapolis is still a big challenge.
“Some people are scared to talk about what they know,” said King, a teenager who lives in the Martindale-Brightwood area on the near Eastside. “But I think I would have to work with the police to tell what I saw.”
Deann Mitchell, a mother of four who also lives in an inner city area, agrees. She believes the crime rate would go down if more people would come forward.
“There’s truth in standing up against criminals and taking back our streets, which includes cooperating with the police,” she said as two of her children played quietly in front of her home. “Some people know someone involved in a crime and don’t want to get them in trouble. I’m sorry, but if you do the crime you should do the time.”
Louis Bonner, a no-nonsense middle-aged man, views informing the police as something that simply violates tradition, like wearing white clothes after Labor Day.
“Old school people are not snitches, he said matter-of-factly while working near his garage. “These young folk might snitch like dogs, but my generation was raised on a code that says you should mind your own business.”
Bonner added that some people don’t report crimes because, he believes, the police “isn’t doing their job” of protecting people. He said politicians must provide more jobs and positive opportunities to keep at-risk youth from being tempted by the fast money of crime.
His sister, Delores Balls, believes Mayor Bart Peterson has done a good job of encouraging cooperation with citizens and law enforcement, but said more residents would feel comfortable offering information if they had a closer relationship with police.
“It would help if the police had more direct interaction with law-abiding people, if we had more patrol officers and officers on foot patrol in some neighborhoods,” she said.
IMPD’s Thompson noted that many residents don’t know how easy and simple it is to report information to police. They can, for instance, call IMPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline to share what they known about suspects, which are discussed during evening broadcasts of WTHR-TV Channel 13 news.
“They could talk to us anonymously, depending on the nature of the crime,” said Thompson. “Often they can call our Crime Stoppers line at (317) 262-TIPS and not only provide information that could lead us to an arrest, but also receive a cash reward.”
Individuals who call the hotline are usually given a reference number they can use in place of their real identity to communicate with police.
IPMD officials say that while no one can honestly and fairly guarantee the safety of another person 24 hours a day, they do assure informants that everything possible will be done to protect them and prevent leaks in communication.
“If someone is giving information over the phone and there is no way of having a call traced back to them, then there is a certain degree of safety in that,” said Thompson. “That’s why we recommend that people call Crime Stoppers.”