In April of this year, IMPD created a Violence Reduction Team and a Violent Crime Task Force. Each district in the metro has both teams.
The VRT unit is a uniformed presence and the VCTF is a mixture of detectives and plainclothes officers.
The goal is to have around 20 officers in each district on these teams, focusing solely on taking down the violence in Indianapolis.
We spoke to two gun detectives who are part of the North district’s Violent Crime Task Force. Both work undercover at times so we are not going to use their names.
The former narcotics detectives are using their background and unique skills to target gun violence in the city, specifically, shots fired calls.
According to the detectives, the city and IMPD leadership went through and looked at where all the resources were for investigating violent crime. They learned there were a lot of resources being allocated to narcotics and decided to move some of those resources over to violence reduction.
The detectives on the Violent Crime Task Force are responsible for investigating every shots fired case, even if no one was hit by a bullet.
“We are extremely busy. It’s hard to get time to eat sometimes during the day,” said the detective.
Prior to the formation of the task force, an incident where a home or vehicle was struck by a bullet would be categorized as a property crime as long as no one was injured. The case would then be assigned to a district detective who was working on several other types of cases.
But now, the task force is taking on those incidents and investigating each one from start to finish.
“We’re able to give those cases a lot more attention,” said the detective.
“We treat every shots fired as if somebody was hit and we follow that investigation all the way through until the end until we can make an arrest on it,” said the detective.
“It’s just a change of mindset of looking at that, not as a property crime or a missed opportunity ad just move forward. But actually grabbing that opportunity and following that lead to the next end to maybe make sure there isn’t that next follow on,” said Captain Joshua Gisi, who is in charge of neighborhood impact programs like VRT and VCTF.
Captain Gisi says the benefit of having detectives full-time focused on shots fired is that they are helping prevent potential retaliation before it happens.
The detectives have been working shots fired cases in this manner since April. They feel it’s already made a difference. The hope is eventually that will reflect in the number of homicides decreasing in the city.
“Since this had started in April I think we’ve seen a good change in the number of shots fired runs that we have had. Because we are able to get on it immediately and we are able to investigate it thoroughly and we’re able to hopefully prevent any retaliation. So if you can stop that and prevent the next one from happening then it’s going to bring your numbers down,” said the detective.
“We’ve noticed that there are not as many shots fired,” said the other detective.
“Anecdotally we know we are seeing a little bit of a drop in the average shots fired run over a 24 hour period, so we will take that as a win. We’ve only been at it since April so it will take some time to compare those numbers and see those percentages drop hopefully but we do know is we are getting the right people,” said Captain Gisi.
A lot of the people arrested by the task force are people who have been known to IMPD.
“When we are building these cases they are coming back to people we knew were out there that have a history that we have either targeted before through other criminal prosecutions or their names have popped up as associates things like that so we know we are in the right place already and to us, that’s a big win. They have an extensive history and there’s definitely the potential for follow-on or retaliatory reaction from these folks,” said Captain Gisi.
“In my mind, if you can get that individual or that group and stop them and incarcerate them so they can’t commit any more crimes then it is ultimately going to lower the shots fired especially within that area,” said the detective.
Since April, the Violent Crime Task Force has made 575 arrests and seized 220 guns city-wide.
Captain Gisi says getting the crime guns off the streets is a major help in preventing future shootings.
“We know those guns rotate. They move from person to person or group to group or one side of town to the other. By taking those guns out of the equation we slow or stop the process,” he said, “And understand that the link between that weapon or the fact that act happened is probably going to result in something further down the line. So the first attempt maybe was not successful but the second one could be. We don’t want the second attempt.”
The program is also helping build more trust among the public of IMPD. Captain Gisi says detectives can often get more information from the public when they are investigating a shooting where no one was injured and only property was damaged.
“Say we do get someone shot in the street. There are usually two sides. Now the people may not be as interested in helping. In this case, we don’t have that problem. We have either innocent people or we have a resident that is not going to tell you no. The owner of that house wants to know why their house got shot up, the owner of that car wants to know that. They may not have been the target, but they are not going to worry about retaliation or something along those lines because it’s not that deep for them they are just an innocent victim that wants justice,” said Captain Gisi.
The program is still in its infancy and takes after national models that have proven successful. The hope is this new effort keeps trending in the right direction.
“Putting an emphasis on the shots fired and trying to stop it before it happens I think it is key to trying to bring the numbers down of homicides or ag assaults that happen around the city,” said the detective.
“We’re four months into it and in 6 months we may find a different pathway that is more successful but time will tell but we are going to keep after it doing what we think we know is going to work for us,” said Captain Gisi.