INDIANAPOLIS -- On Friday night, after spending some time with his kids on the playground, Rev. Charles Harrison donned his high-visibility vest and headed out. There’d been reports of shots fired in the neighborhood and – as he’d done hundreds of times before – he was going to look into it.
Since 1999, Harrison and his fellow Rev. Charles Ellis have conducted peace walks on the northwest side with the coalition of faith leaders, community volunteers and former gang members that makes up the Ten Point Coalition. The latter, called “OGs” (original gangsters) by the group, are meant to give Ten Point credibility with the street gangs they’re hoping to dissuade from violence.
Ten Point conducts peace walks on a regular basis – usually on weekend nights when the likelihood of violence is higher. In between, Harrison and other volunteers will show up at shooting scenes to try to calm emotions and provide a liaison between the community and police. Sometimes they’re able to pass along information they receive to investigators.
The group has in the past had a presence in the Haughville and Martindale-Brightwood neighborhoods, but recently has focused exclusively on its core areas of the United Northwest/Riverside (also known as the United Northwest, or UNWA), Crown Hill and the southern portion of Butler-Tarkington – the majority of the 46208 ZIP code. Earlier this year the group also announced it was formally expanding patrols into the Highland Vicinity area.
Ten Point has been honored for its crime-reduction efforts by the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence. In August, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill announced he was making $500,000 available to seed new Ten Point-inspired groups around the state.
On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he would visit Ten Point at the Barnes United Methodist Church on Monday to discuss whether the program could become a national crime-fighting model.
For their part, Indianapolis police have consistently pointed to Ten Point as an important part of community-police relations, always with this caveat: at the end of the day, there’s simply no way to say for certain how much of a role Ten Point plays in affecting homicide numbers where they patrol.
Since the Ten Point model is on the verge of being replicated at a much larger scale, we wanted to try to answer that question as empirically as possible. To do that, we looked at two datasets: Criminal homicides in the city of Indianapolis from 2007-2017; and criminal homicides with victims ages 14-24 – the “youth” demographic Ten Point targets – from 2015-2017.
Read on to see what we found:
Data Set 1: Youth Homicides 14-24 (2015-2017)
The Ten Point Coalition’s main focus is on decreasing what it classifies as youth violence – specifically, homicides among victims ages 14-24.
The map below shows all youth homicides ages 14-24 in Indianapolis neighborhoods from 2015-2017. Neighborhoods are color-coded by average number of youth homicides over that period.
Whereas the North Northwest/Riverside neighborhood ranks 4th overall for murders between 2015-2017, it falls to 8th for the percentage of those homicides made up of youth victims, with four victims between the ages of 14-24 killed over that period. Crown Hill, which ranks 9th for overall homicides during that period, comes in at 11th for youth homicides.
Last year – the deadliest year in the city's recorded history, and the deadliest year in recent memory for youth victims – only three of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods managed to go the whole year without a youth homicide. Two of those were Ten Point patrol areas (Near Northwest/Riverside and Crown Hill). The other was Arlington Woods.
The map below shows all youth homicides ages 14-24 in Indianapolis between 2015-2017. Color indicates year: Yellow - 2015; Green - 2016; Purple - 2017.
Rev. Harrison credits Ten Point’s ongoing street mediations for that success.
“We’re constantly hearing about people who are beefing. People who have stolen drugs from somebody else, etc.” Harrison said. “These kids are always approaching [the OGs] and talking to them about what’s going on the neighborhood. We don’t always get it before it happens, but sometimes we do.”
Overall, Ten Point’s three patrol areas saw 10 youth homicides from 2015-2017. Three of those came during the 2015 spike in Butler-Tarkington. By comparison, the Near Eastside alone had 14 youth homicides during that period.
So far this year, the Near Northwest/Riverside neighborhood has seen three youth homicides: James Butler, Sema Jordan and Miraeya Arciga. Two of them, Butler and Arciga, have resulted in arrests. As of this writing, Crown Hill remains youth homicide free for the year.
Data Set 2: Criminal Homicides 2007-2017
The bottom line is: It’s hard to draw a clear line between Ten Point and a consistent decrease in overall homicides.
Yes, the group’s home base, the Near Northwest/Riverside neighborhood, saw a drastic drop from 11 murders in 2015 to just three in 2016 – but it also saw nearly the same increase, from four to 11, the year prior. And with two months still left to go in 2017, last year’s number has already more than doubled, with seven murders in the Near Northwest/Riverside year-to-date.
Meanwhile, Martindale-Brightwood and the Near Eastside – two of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods – which had 19 and 24 homicides in 2016, respectively, have both dropped to 10 homicides year-to-date without any Ten Point presence.
The map below shows every criminal homicide in Indianapolis from 2007-2017 by neighborhood. Areas are colored based on their average number of homicides over that period.
The numbers are a little better in Crown Hill – the group’s second neighborhood – which has seen two years in the past 10 with zero homicides and is currently at just one homicide for the year. But Crown Hill too has seen drastic fluctuations, from four in 2014 to eight in 2015 and back down to four in 2016.
Harrison says 2016 was the first year that Ten Point had regrouped and refocused on the 46208 ZIP code after attempting to have a presence in all six of the hotspot areas identified under the administration of Mayor Greg Ballard.
“They tried to have us in all six hotspot areas, but we really didn’t have the resources to do it,” Harrison said. “When they cut the money off, it was kind of a blessing in disguise because then we pulled back and really focused on the 46208 ZIP code.”
Over the 10-year period we analyzed, the Near Northwest/Riverside and Crown Hill neighborhoods remained among the city’s 10 most dangerous – one of the reasons Ten Point was started there in the first place. And as the city’s overall homicide rate has increased, Ten Point’s neighborhoods have not seen a reprieve.
Both the Near Northwest/Riverside and Crown Hill neighborhoods saw homicide numbers within the averages for the rest of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods – among them the Near Eastside, Martindale-Brightwood and the Meadows. In fact, the Near Northwest saw greater-than-average homicide numbers compared to the top five most dangerous neighborhoods for four out of the 10 years we looked at.
Ten Point’s third patrol area – the southern portion of Butler-Tarkington – is a unique case. From 2007-2014, the neighborhood averaged less than one homicide a year. In fact, there was just one homicide during all of 2012, 2013 and 2014 combined. Then, in 2015, four people were murdered in Butler-Tarkington in a matter of months. Among those victims was 10-year-old Deshaun Swanson.
After the first several of those homicides, Ten Point mobilized peace walks and worked to broker a truce between two warring gangs – the Gett Money Gang and Konnect Gang (KG) – whose feud was blamed for the bloodshed.
According to Rev. Harrison, a Ten Point OG was able to get in contact with purported Gett Money Gang shot-caller Michael Pugh to talk about a ceasefire.
“When he gave his word that they would stand down, I know some of the younger guys were not happy,” Harrison said. “But they did stand down.”
The last of those four homicides occurred on October 13, 2015. Last month, Ten Point celebrated two years homicide-free in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood.
Pugh himself was sentenced to more than 270 years in prison for a string of home break-ins on the north side.
While it’s impossible to say conclusively what ended the sudden spike of violence in Butler-Tarkington – perhaps the Ten Point Coalition’s efforts kept the peace until police could remove one of the feuding gangs from the streets – residents of the neighborhood say Ten Point’s contributions can’t be discounted.
“They were definitely out there,” said Ted Feeney, who was the president of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association from 2014-2015.
Feeney said he’s supportive of the idea of the Ten Point model being spread – but noted that Ten Point in and of itself likely won’t be the cure for violence.
“I do believe that the model is all of the groups working together,” Feeney said. “It’s the neighborhood, and the police, and the city and something like Ten Point. You can’t just go into a neighborhood and just do their thing. You have to have a neighborhood group, you have to work with police. It’s not a silver bullet.”