Abandoned homes cause big problems for some neighborhoods

Planners estimate 16K abandoned structures in city

INDIANAPOLIS - Dozens of times each day, Metro police officers respond to reports of people breaking into abandoned and vacant structures.

City planners estimate there are upwards of 16,000 vacant and abandoned structures across Indianapolis.

"It is a public safety threat and it affects the quality of life of those that are still in these neighborhoods where abandoned homes are sort of rampant," said Reggie Walton, with Metropolitan Development.

Vacant and abandoned homes are rampant in the north side Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood.

The problem was underscored this week following the arrests of 31 gang members who used vacant homes in the north side neighborhood as a base of operations.

A street gang named the Buddha Boyz took over the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood where police say they sold drugs, terrorized residents and killed a young mother.

Police say their criminal enterprise lasted as long as it did because they utilized a network of abandoned homes.

Undercover Metro officers decided to clean up the crime, and at the same time, try and cleanup the neighborhood.

"We were able to positively affect about 51 percent of those 114 abandoned houses by getting them torn down or put on a tear down list to bring them up to code or occupy them," said Deputy Chief Greg Bieberich.

It can take from eight to 10 months to work through the process to get a single abandoned or vacant structure demolished.

While Mapleton-Fall Creek leaders commend the police effort, they say more needs to be done.

"I'm hoping that the city and the health department and everybody can get together and let's identify these structures, who owns them, and let's go after them," said Mapleton-Fall Creek resident Al Polin.

In the past two years, Indianapolis has spent $29 million trying to knock down or fix up abandoned homes.

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