FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — Law enforcement in Hamilton and Boone Counties met Tuesday to formulate a new rapid response to a critical crime trend uncovered by I-Team 8 that linked hundreds of local burglaries, thefts and robberies to a sudden rise in heroin abuse.
Earlier this month, an analysis of crime data by I-Team 8 showed a sudden surge in cheap, highly pure and easily available heroin is directly fueling spikes in other crimes across Marion County. The crimes occurred in every township, on every side of the city.
Last week, IMPD detectives arrested a Gary, Ind. man on murder charges for the deaths of three people in what police described as a heroin robbery gone bad. A 10-year-old girl inside a nearby house was hit in the leg by a stray bullet.
But, the crime connections aren’t limited to just Indianapolis.
Burglaries, robberies, assaults and dozens of other crimes reported across Central Indiana are being linked to heroin dealers, addicts, or suspects.
On Tuesday, top cops from across the area called it one of the area’s biggest crime crises in a generation.
“The spinoff crimes that are being committed by these people that are addicted to heroin affect us all,” said Carmel Police Chief Tim Green. “Heroin is not like other drugs we’ve seen and dealt with. We see the need to really address this in somewhat of a different way.”
At a roundtable meeting Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) called the links I-Team 8 uncovered extremely troubling.
“It is big,” he told I-Team 8. “I’m here to get the very, very best ideas I can from all of the counties in this area and to tell them that we’re in this with them. We’ll do everything we can to help this process of trying to fight back against this heroin epidemic. And, it is an epidemic.”
From Zionsville to Noblesville, Carmel to Fishers, law enforcement leaders took turns outlining why heroin is no longer just an “inner city” problem.
“It’s not anymore,” said Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt. “Historically, of course, that’s the way it’s always been. But, now we’re seeing it moving into really any place in Indiana. We’re seeing a new commodity at play. And, the dynamics of dealing with law enforcement issues of heroin abuse are different than they are with some other drugs. So, we’re confronting a new threat.”
In an attempt to gain an upper hand, Donnelly said one of the primary focuses of local law enforcement is now at the street level, on dealers and drug networks.
“Our message to them is clear: if you want to handle this product or you want to try to sell this product, we’re going to be after you. We’re looking to put you in jail. We’re looking to clamp this down,” Donnelly said.
To do that, Donnelly said he’s working to identify new federal grants that could eventually help put more officers on the streets. No specific information on those grants has been released yet, but Donnelly said he recognizes that money alone will not solve the problem.
“What the money can help provide is more people on the street. Where the rubber meets the road is stopping the cartels from coming in. It is having police and law enforcement on the street to arrest the drug dealers and arrest the people who are purchasing the products. So, it’s a multi-pronged approach,” he said.
That must include expansion of available treatment, Jowitt added.
“If the addiction doesn’t go away, the need to commit crimes isn’t going to go away,” Jowitt said. “You can get one or two people who, because of their daily need for money, are committing a crime or two crimes every day. And, even with one or two people, that can really start driving numbers up.”
Donnelly praised new FBI and DEA plans announced last month aimed at targeting heroin cartels based in Mexico. He called a rise in direct shipments from the border to Indiana a critical concern.
“That’s why we’re here,” Donnelly said. “We’re here to talk solutions and give a very clear signal that it will not be tolerated.”