INDIANAPOLIS -- Worries that drug addicts and dealers may be preying on vulnerable seniors in the Crown Hill neighborhood have come to a head following a March incident in which a 65-year-old man was shot in a drive-by while out walking.
After that shooting – and an earlier one in February in which a man walked to the nearby Phillips 66 gas station suffering from multiple gunshot wounds – Rev. Charles Harrison of the Ten Point Coalition reached out to IMPD and officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about "talk" he'd heard regarding ongoing drug activity in and around two senior housing complexes on Boulevard Place in Crown Hill.
"It was the night that I got a call about a shooting right at 34th and Capitol where they found an individual shot," Harrison said about when he first heard about the issue. "When I went into the area along with representatives from Ten Point, people started talking about the drug activity around 34th and Boulevard."
Harrison said Ten Point was told the victim of that shooting was not actually shot at the Phillips 66, but around the corner, "possibly in a drug trafficking activity that went bad."
After that, Harrison said, he began hearing about more issues with drug activity taking place in two senior apartment complexes on Boulevard Place.
The complexes in question – Mt. Zion Apartments and Mt. Paran Square Apartments – are Section 8 housing designated for seniors 62-and-older, or residents who are handicapped or disabled.
Residents of Mt. Paran Square Apartments told RTV6 they've dealt for years with addicts either sneaking into the building – or being let in – and then harassing tenants and passing out in the stairwells.
"A little old lady who lived on my floor got scared," a 68-year-old old woman who lives at Mt. Paran Square – and who asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisal – told RTV6. "They called the police. They had to call the police. They kept knocking on her door every night."
The woman said part of the problem is that her neighbors are letting undesirable elements into the building.
"They have people who live here. They have friends," she said. "If we had more people who weren't scared of them, we could deal with this ourselves."
Kari Stoner, a representative from Moynahan Williams Inc., which manages Mt. Paran Square, said management has been made aware of issues at the building.
"We are taking steps to ensure that those problems don't continue," Stoner said, adding that the company is looking into hiring a security guard. "We have security cameras, we have locked doors. You can't just walk in. Somebody has to give you a key or let you in."
Stoner said the company also screens everyone who applies for one of the building's 23 units "with the strictest guidelines HUD allows."
Just a few blocks up the street, at Mt. Zion Apartments, property manager Triangle Associates Inc. says it too has dealt with persistent drug-related problems around the property.
"We have over 80 people living in the area, all elderly, and we do care about that," a Triangle Associates spokesman said. "We are concerned about their safety. But there are certain restrictions to how we can operate."
Mt. Zion has 24-hour cameras, a key code to enter into the door and off-duty officers hired for security throughout the day, according to Triangle Associates, but that does little to deter criminal activity near, but not on, the property.
Triangle Associates also manages the nearby Andrews Gardens senior apartments, and managed Mt. Paran Square as well until two years ago. The company said it was easier to afford a full-time security guard when the cost could be split across the three buildings.
"Although we're being proactive by installing cameras throughout the hallways and requiring residents to carry key fobs, it's not enough," Triangle Associates said. "The area, unfortunately, is infested. But if it happens in the back alley … they can be trading drugs right in front of us, but if it's not on our property, there's not much we can do other than call police."
For its part, IMPD says it has heard similar complaints about the area around the apartments, but hasn't been able to substantiate them yet. Sgt. Michael Wolley of IMPD North District said he doesn't find them hard to believe, though.
"We know based on the high social disorder index in that area that there's a lot of mental health issues, there's a lot of poverty, there's a lot of drug use and overdoses in that area," Wolley said. "So it wouldn't be surprising if someone were to come into a senior living facility and try to take advantage of them, possibly intimidating them. We know that a lot of times mental health issues go along with those senior living homes. And then also, oftentimes the people residing in those situations don't have a strong social support network and they're easily manipulated by outsiders."
The Department of Housing and Urban Development told RTV6 it currently has no investigations ongoing at either property, and that both properties received a score of "satisfactory" at their most recent management reviews.
HUD said the owners of both apartments have discretion to terminate tenancy based on drug-related criminal activity engaged in, on or near the premises by any tenant, household member or guest.
If you have any information about criminal activity in the Crown Hill area – or anywhere else – you are urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS. Your call may remain anonymous.
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