The boring -- but no-shit -- approach to crime

Dateline: Fri 25 Aug 2006

This is not going to sell newspapers or boost TV ratings, because a common-sense, low-key, balanced approach never does. But consider it --- a veteran Indianapolis Police Department officer tells me what thousands of cops already know: a key tool to combating spiraling crime in Indianapolis is highway interdiction for narcotics. Or in plain language, traffic stops for drugs.

Sgt. Joe Humkey of the IPD West District doesn't buy into the media hype that Indianapolis is in a meltdown. The popular rap is that a string of recent killings (95 homicides this year, which puts us on par with 1998)translates into the capital city going into free fall.

"I think it is a blip -- 15 homicides in 20 days is an aberration," said Humkey Friday. "Everybody has had their knee-jerk reactions and now they are taking credit (for solving the problem, since we've been murder free for 3 weeks now).

"We had forced mandatory overtime (at IPD). Supposedly that is what stopped it (crime wave). The mayor is taking credit because nobody was released from jail in three weeks.

"None of this has anything to do with anything. If you go 30 days without a homicide, that is an aberration, too," said Humkey.

Humkey believes that a national conference held this past week in Indy, ending today, addresses the "root cause and common denominator of 85 percent of the crime that is going on."

The title of the conference is "Motor Vehicle Criminal Interdiction, Intelligence Networking and Training Conference," and it is being presented for IPD and the Indiana State Police in cooperation with the US Department of Transportation, Drug Enforcement Administration and the El Paso Intelligence Center.

So why was there nothing in the Star or other publications about this effort? Frankly, good, solid, old-fashioned police work is not the sort of story that bleeds.("If it bleeds, it leads.")

I am inclined to believe Humkey's hunch is dead-on about our murder rate being a blip. First, I trust his expertise and long years on the beat, and second, I've heard Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie out in my neck of the woods wax eloquent on the subject of drug interdiction as the No. 1 crime-stopper for the county.

Our small police force out here in the Western part of the state has been trained when making traffic stops on I-70 and other roads to look for clues that indicate drug-related behavior. I'm not talking just about driving impaired, but all sorts of other indicators that the driver's mission may be drug-related.

So is Indy going to hell in a hand basket? Probably not. Every once in a while, perspective -- the long view -- is more bracing than hysteria.

And for the record: both IPD and the ISP have drug interdiction teams. IPD's is about two years old and has become very skilled, said Humkey. Look for law enforcement to throw more weight this direction -- but don't expect to see banner headlines about any good news.

Contact me: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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