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CALL 6: Your taxes are paying rent for criminals while families who follow the law wait for help

Posted at 2:01 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 23:45:52-04

INDIANAPOLIS --  Indianapolis Housing Agency workers past and present say they're frustrated that their bosses are not doing enough to evict law breakers who are living off taxpayers, while families who follow the law remain on long waiting lists.

Eleea Hooten is the mother of 3-year-old Zakiya and 4-year-old Zakaylee. Hooten is one of the 172,392 people waiting to get into public housing in Indiana.

"The first time I applied May 13, 2014. It's annoying and frustrating because I told them I'm homeless," said Hooten.

She's staying with a friend and working at a fast food restaurant to pay the bills. Before that, Hooten lived in her car.

"Oh, yeah, it's been really horrible," said Hooten.

Waiting lists for public housing are not new. There are not enough dollars to meet the demand. So IHA officials must make tough choices to make sure that people getting taxpayer-funded rent assistance really need it.

Call 6 Investigates obtained nearly two years’ worth of internal documents from the Indianapolis Housing Agency detailing the spike in crime among tenants connected to robberies, drugs, and criminal homicide.

Those confidential documents show a 57 percent increase in criminal acts from April 2017 through March 31, 2018, including vandalism, theft, disturbances, and assaults.

This happened as the federal government slashed public safety budgets and housing agencies give people who violated rules or committed crimes more time before they're evicted.

Out of 16 Indianapolis housing sites, five operate under "One Strike," which means residents involved in felony crimes can be evicted within 72 hours. Tenants who refuse to leave must be taken to court.

But those under the Rental Assistance Demonstration program have up to 30 days before they can be evicted and tenants have up to 10 days to appeal under RAD. Documents obtained by Call 6 Investigates show that the remaining 11 sites have the highest crime incidents including Blackburn, Beechwood, and Laurelwood. 

Another confidential document shows criminal activity was up 58 percent from May 20, 2017, to May 19, 2018, at Blackburn with 243 apartments, 125 percent at Beechwood with 159 units, 182 percent at Laurelwood with 135 apartments, 50 percent at 16 Park with 155 units, and 26 percent at Hawthorne with 162 units. 

One top housing employee with knowledge of IHA operations, who wanted to remain anonymous told Call 6 Investigates, "Some families have to sleep on the floor next to drug houses that are known drug houses but nothing is done. So that's why I'm crying out because of the families."

Internal records dating back to March show the agency was aware of several residents at Blackburn involved in crimes and nothing has been done, while 3,000 people wait for housing  at that property alone.

Duane Ingram oversees the property managers and Ralph Jordan is chief of operations for IHA.

"I have not seen a rise in crime. We (get numbers) every Sunday. We review them on Monday, Tuesday, I’m reviewing some today. The crime rate appears to be the same. It doesn't appear that One Strike has affected a rise in crime from my observation," said Ralph Jordan, IHA Chief of Operations.

"Absolutely the same," said Duane Ingram, who oversees the IHA property managers.

That's contrary to Ingrams' e-mails. A recent one told managers, "There is a lot of police activity in your properties" and asks them to take action.

Jordan also dismisses that a cut in public safety is contributing to the spike in crime.

"We continue to strategize as to how we can improve safety in our properties that's our primary focus. It’s an everyday thing. It’s something we think about. Every week when we get police reports there is something else different that happens," said Jordan.      

Ingram has met with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach to discuss plans to increase their presence on IHA properties. 

“There are some plans we now have in the works that will help us and our managers strengthen relationships and give us better contact with IMPD where we have a more fluid relationship,” said Ingram.

He added “ I would tell those on the waiting list that we are doing are very best with the resources that we have to uphold the laws given to us by HUD that govern this agency.”

Chantia James just got a non-IHA apartment after living her car.

"You got Speedway 24 hours so we'd go there. We'd wash up and everything. It was a bad struggle," said Chantia.

She's been on waiting list since 2015.

“Why do you have to wait your whole life to get help?” Chantia said.

It's an agonizing situation for IHA employees who feel stuck with criminals on their properties.   

“They are not looking at crime. If there’s a person shot nothing is done. The reports are read and nothing is done,” the anonymous housing official said.

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