Central Indiana Gangs Spread To Suburbs

Gang Problem More Violent, Increasingly Mobile

Gang activity is expanding in Indianapolis, spreading into suburban neighborhoods as more organized, more violent and increasingly mobile groups.

Gangs in Indianapolis have been collaborating with rival gangs to increase profits and influence, Call 6 Investigator Jack Rinehart reported.

There has been an uptick in gang activity in Franklin Township, leaving school officials and Indianapolis police scrambling to try to get a handle on the situation.

One mother who didn't want to be identified described an attack on her 15-year-old son.

"One of them held a gun to his head and tried to rob him," she said. "It's very scary. We've had them pull up right in front of the house and threaten and yell at us."

Police made nearly 70 gang-related arrests in Franklin Township within the last year. Gang members, most of them middle school and high school students, have been arrested on various charges, including armed robbery, burglary, intimidation and pointing weapons. In one case, police said, a probation officer at Franklin Township High School was threatened he would be killed.

"There's so many kids involved in this gang. They could be anywhere, and we just can't take the chance," the Franklin Township mother said.

Ninety-six percent of the population in Franklin Township is Caucasian, and the median income is $70,000.

"It's gotten to the point where my son can't even go outside. I had to withdraw him from school," the mother said. "We just plan on moving away from here. That's all we can do."

Gangs are no longer an inner-city phenomenon in Indianapolis. Middle-class neighborhoods are now fertile ground.

The Marion County Sheriff's Gang Intelligence Unit has identified 381 street gangs in Indianapolis, and they believe there are more they don't know about.

Police recently arrested four teenage gang members in Perry Township who assaulted a 15-year-old boy.

"From the research I've been doing, this gang has been terrorizing the Southport area for over a decade now," the boy's mom said.

The attackers stole the boy's new bike, his tennis shoes and beat him badly.

"(They) beat him down into a bush and was stomping him to the point it left shoe marks across his liver," the boy's mom said. "They detached his retina. They ruptured his eardrum. He had a concussion. The psychological damage far outweighs any physical damage they tried to do, and it's sad."

In suburban Cumberland, which straddles the Marion and Hancock County line east of Indianapolis, gangs are making their presence known.

"There's no boundaries here. There's no set of rules," said Cumberland Police Chief Mike Crook. "We're being very cautious about what we're doing."

Within the last year, police blame gang violence in a shooting that wounded five teens on the canal downtown, for an ambush attack that left an Indianapolis police officer wounded, and for two shootings and robberies that resulted in the death of a bakery worker and injuries to another man.

"The ultimate fate for these kids is either death or prison," said the Rev. Charles Harrison, of the Ten-Point Coalition. "We have just as great a problem in our townships as we do now in Center Township. They just don't have any regard for life anymore."

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry recently created a gang prosecution position at the Juvenile Detention Center. Prosecutors are using racketeering and criminal gang statuses whenever possible.

"To the extent that we encounter individuals, youngsters who are as young as 12, 13, 14 years old, if we can assist in intervention efforts, we're happy to do that," Curry said. "At the other extreme, those gangs that are out there committing violent crimes, we're going to try and take them down."

A 2011 FBI Threat Assessment Study indicated that gangs have established strong footholds in at least 45 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

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