Indianapolis, Indiana

Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation

Indianapolis, Indiana

BCJI Funding Year: FY2018

BCJI Awardee: John Boner Neighborhood Centers

Research Partner: Indiana University Public Policy Institute

Focus Area: Geographic area bounded by 10th Street, Emerson Avenue, Washington Street, and Rural Street - Population 10,744 

Challenges: Homicides, Aggravated Assaults Burglaries, Juvenile Crime

Neighborhood Characteristics

The focus area of the BCJI project (bounded by 10th Street, Emerson Avenue, Washington Street, and Rural Street) is an area in Indianapolis that has disproportionately concentrated crime. With a population of only 10,744, the area accounts for 1.2 percent of Marion County's population and nearly 5 percent of the county's homicides and aggravated assaults, over 5 percent of its robberies, nearly 4 percent of the county's burglaries, and over 3 percent of its auto thefts. The area has nearly double the juvenile charges per 1,000 population, and high crime rates have been consistent over time.

Low educational outcomes and high rates of poverty, unemployment, and crime create barriers in the area. According to 2016 5-Year American Community Survey estimates, 36.5 percent of residents live in poverty, compared with 20.1 percent living in poverty in Marion County. Unemployment in the area is currently at 15 percent and is as high as 36 percent in some U.S. Census block groups. This compares to an unemployment rate of 9 percent in the county. In some Census tracts, as few as 4 percent of children under age 18 had two working parents at home, and some Census block groups had median household incomes as low as $23,400.

Planning Phase

The John H. Boner Community Center (JBNC) commits to collaborating with cross-sector partners; leveraging funding from a variety of sources; and working with the research partner, Indiana University's Public Policy Institute (PPI), and the BJA TTA provider, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), to meet goals, and create a continuum of solutions that improve public safety. JBNC, the cross-sector partnership, and the IndyEast Safe Committee have organized a team of partners called the IndyEast Public Safety Team (PST).  

The primary goal of the IndyEast BCJI program is to address the root causes of crime in the area, including poverty, family economic instability, substance abuse, mental illness, and a decaying environment, and to use targeted enforcement, community policing, and interventions with social service components to prevent and reduce crime. Additional goals are to align programs, systems, and resources around crime reduction and prevention, and to plan and implement place-based, community-oriented revitalization strategies to improve the quality of life in the target area. During the Planning Phase the site developed individual objectives to meet these overarching goals. Achieving these objectives will allow the Near Eastside to actualize its vision of becoming a vibrant, thriving, and welcoming community by overcoming barriers to economic development and greater quality of life. 

Implementation Strategies

Leading up to the Implementation Phase, the Indianapolis BCJI project’s research and evaluation team used a community-based approach to data collection to better understand the complexities and nuances of stakeholders’ perceptions of crime. To achieve this objective, the research and evaluation team engaged in substantial qualitative data collection and analysis with residents, youth, criminal justice personnel, faith-based leaders, and social service providers in the area. 

Based on the research and evaluation team’s findings, the Indianapolis BCJI project’s Public Safety Team (PST) elected to implement two primary strategies to reduce violence in the project’s target area during the Implementation Phase: 

  • Improve employment and educational opportunities for residents: The Center for Working Families (CWF) will work out of the Shepherd Community Center and John Boner Neighborhood Centers to provide intensive case management services for neighborhood residents identified as at-risk for criminal activity or who have had previous involvement in the criminal justice system. The CWF will provide a comprehensive menu of services that aim to increase the employability of program participants. The CWF will assist participants with identifying personal skills and career interests; enrolling in programs to help them achieve their intended career path; breaking down barriers to ensure that participants are able to complete the training program; developing resumes, and practicing for interviews; connecting them with employers in the participant’s selected career field; and providing follow-up support. 

  • Strengthen the social fabric of the community: The Indianapolis BCJI team will implement a proposal called “Poetic Justice:  Peace Building and Crime Prevention through Poetic Inquiry and Story-Based Strategy Writing.”  Led by a local resident, who is a professor at a local university, this 15-week program combines restorative justice and trauma-informed practices with poetic inquiry and narrative writing instruction.  Residents in the project’s geographic target area are eligible for participation and will be identified by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department – East District and the James E. Waters Community Mediation Center.  Once eligible participants have been identified by law enforcement partners, the PST will use existing partnerships with parole and probation, educators, case managers, clergy, and neighborhood leaders to recruit potential participants into the program.  Participants will be offered a stipend to incentivize participation, and the PST will work to remove any barriers to participation such as transportation, meals, childcare, or language differences. 

Other Key Partners

Indiana University Public Policy Institute, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), Safe IndyEast, City of Indianapolis, the Indiana Department of Corrections, Shepard Community Center, James E. Waters Community Mediation Center, Center for Working Families (CWF), Englewood Community Development Corporation, Near East Area Renewal, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and other community organizations and local community development corporations 

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.

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