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The City Beat

Broad Ripple, Crime, Police

Posted 4:05 PM by



There’s been more than a little commentary, in the media, the blogs, and even at MKNA meetings about crime lately.  Most of it has been spurred by the shootings in Broad Ripple over the 4th weekend, as well as the disheartening death of a police officer over that same period.  As is often the case, we move rapidly beyond what it is that happened into the ever more common phase of “solutions” that usually end up as regurgitations of either political beliefs or sociological stereotypes, both with little concern for what actually happened, or keeps happening.


One item of note needs to be touched on briefly (and only briefly because I want to talk about it more in a future blog).  Indianapolis spends between 93% and 95% of its budget on public safety.  Most of its budget comes from property taxes  (which have been mostly flat for the past couple of years) and income taxes  (which have been declining for the past few years).   The rest, what there is of it, comes from fees collected.  Most of the conversation about diverting money to public safety from other areas of the budget is generally political.  


Now, about Broad Ripple.  To understand what’s been happening there, I’d first like to take you back to my hometown, which is about the size of Meridian Kessler and Broad Ripple combined.  It’s a racially diverse, high poverty area that by fate, sits directly on Lake Michigan.   It has a harbor (mostly occupied by Chicago boaters) and a park  (once a thriving amusement park, but now much closer to Canterbury Park).   Between the two is a large parking lot.  During the hot Indiana summers, those without air-conditioning  (read Urban Poor) tend to migrate to the parking lot from the late hours of the evening to the early part of the morning  -  breezes off the lake make it cooler there, and while watching the fenced off Chicago boaters and the meager park offer some amusement, mostly the activity is just hanging out.  Of course, there’s alcohol involved.  On a particularly to summer weekend night, the crowd will swell to 3 or 4 thousand, and in crowds that size, there’s always some level of trouble.


A similar demographic, for the past couple of years has chosen Broad Ripple Avenue as their lakefront parking lot.  They’re mostly young  -   so young in fact that almost none of them are able to enter Broad Ripple’s bars.  Mostly they hang out on the sidewalks, which is perfectly legal, though it certainly impedes pedestrian traffic.  Some, with cars, simply drive back and forth along the Avenue and socially interact with their friends on the sidewalk.  It was called cruising in past days, and I suppose it still is.  


Describing this as a “bar” problem simply omits the fact that this same general group has, and still does, use both downtown Indy and also 38th St. between Illinois and Arlington as a similar playground.  Broad Ripple is probably a more desirable destination because music does emanate from the bars, and, because the demographic that does enter the bars is closer to their own.  It’s also worth noting that Meridian Kessler has so far avoided their arrival, probably because our business nodes are much smaller, and those who frequent our bars are a pinch older.


Closing Broad Ripple Avenue for a few hours on late night weekends seems a reasonable experiment.   It should reduce late night cruising, and the interaction between the cars and the sidewalk gawkers is part of the problem.  Likewise, the addition of cameras at least gives the impression of being watched, which ought to deter some crime.   BR Ave. won’t be closed to all traffic  -  emergency vehicles, probably public transportation, etc. will still be allowed.   The Avenue also shouldn’t become a giant block party, because, being partially open, pedestrian won’t be allowed in the street.  You’ll still be able to park there, but need to do so before the street is closed, and you won’t be able to re-enter with your car.


As for the idea that the bars ought to close earlier, that’s not going to happen.  Bar revenues are already down  -  a victim to competition and to the present notoriety.    It’s not going to happen legally, because you simply can’t create a law that says establishments in X place are under different rules than those in Y place.


In the long run, the answer, or what there is of an answer, is to change Broad Ripple into a more residential area.  The more people who live in this area of Broad Ripple, the more other services, besides bars will be in demand.  Already, the new bars in Broad Ripple are a lot more expensive than the older ones.  New office buildings planned for the area will increase lunch traffic and encourage restaurants to open for that traffic.  As for the bigger picture, something needs to be done to provide amusement for this moveable feast of street gawkers, but that takes money, jobs, etc.  


Now, since all of this relates to police, please scroll back to the first paragraph.  There’s almost no available money in the City budget to drastically increase the size of our police department, particularly at $125,000 an officer.  I still promise to talk more in the future about why you just can’t eliminate all the TIF Districts and expect a windfall of future money, but, for now, you just can’t.  That means some form of dedicated revenue stream to police protection.  (Note that the Peterson tax increase was never dedicated, just promised, to that end, and when tax caps arrived, promises vanished).  Two proposals are being floated.  One is the elimination of the local (COIT) homestead credit  (not the big one you get from the state).  The other is an increase to the Public Safety income tax to .5% .  Both would be dedicated, and neither would be massive in their impact on you, though I suppose that depends on how close you live to the edge.  The elimination of the Homestead credit would cost about $35 per household  (unless you’re already at the cap, wherein it doesn’t apply to you).  The Public Safety income tax increase ought to fall in the $50-$60 range.  Interestingly both are opposed by the fringes of the political spectrum  -  the right because there should never, ever, ever, be any new tax, and the left, because lower income residents  (which includes the majority of Marion County residents) shouldn’t ever see any increase in taxes.  The proposals, made by a by-partisan group of the Council, were made because, honestly, this needs to be done, and, honestly, it needs a new revenue stream to get it done.  You can read the Commission’s entire report at  http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Council/Committees/Documents/IMPD%20STAFFING%20STUDY/April%2028%20Meeting/Final%20Report.pdf.


Will an increase in our police force eliminate all crime, or even the current “shoot first, introduce yourself later” problem?    Probably not, but it will allow IMPD more ability to station officers in areas from where crime emanates (aka Community Policing), and the more residents know at least a few police officers well, the more likely residents are to talk to the police.  That’s not happening now with the “Task Force” meetings held in various parts of the Districts that end up being attended by the same small group of people (aka The Choir).   Will it eliminate revolving door justice?  No.  If you want more people in jail for longer periods, increase jail capacity, and pay for it, which also involves taxes.



Comments (1)
Sarah wrote
"In the long run, the answer is to change Broad Ripple into a more residential area" - too bad the city (and the obstructionist Citizens Energy) just set the levee project, and any hope for relief from flood insurance in the area, back 10 years.
Posted Jul 14 2014 4:43 PM
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