IMPD uses traffic cops to target high-crime areas

INDIANAPOLIS - Staffing levels inside the Indianapolis Metro Police Department have dropped to their lowest point since the merger with the Marion County Sheriff's Department, RTV6's Jack Rinehart reported.

In order to increase their visibility and viability, the IMPD traffic branch has been tapped to help stop crime.

IMPD Officer Tim Butler has worked the past 25 years in the traffic branch and has recently taken on traffic and patrol duties.

"When we check their license status, we'll check to see if there are any warrants," Butler said.

In January, the department shifted 20 traffic officers to work in hot zones, the city's most crime-challenged neighborhoods. The small unit has put in more than 2,000 hours of patrol time, but greater visibility is only one of the goals, IMPD Deputy Chief Mike Bates said.

"They've made 50 arrests. They issued 1500 to 1600 traffic tickets in those areas. They each take radio runs in those areas when hot runs come out. They jump on those to assist the districts," Bates said.

Over the past three months, the traffic unit has arrested people wanted on warrants. Officers have recovered firearms and narcotics. And because criminals use vehicles to travel to and from their crimes, a  minor traffic stop can lead to major results.

"Here recently, in the last couple of weeks, with just a minor traffic stop, they've located a stolen car, and people wanted in a murder just a week or so ago," Butler said.

The downside of committing so many traffic officers to fighting crime has been a loss of ticket revenue and an increase in vehicle accidents and injuries.

"Revenue is important. But safety is more important. The tickets are there. And the arrests, concentrating in these high crime areas, I think, really helps public safety," Butler said.

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