Thursday, June 19, 2008
A citywide campaign encouraging residents to report crimes was launched Wednesday with community leaders unveiling a new billboard conveying the message: "It's not snitching -- it's caring."
The billboards are a key component of Peace in the Streets, a movement started in 2004 by a group of young people affiliated with Christamore House in an effort to curtail violent crimes in the city through marketing initiatives such as armbands and T-shirts.
Although city leaders always have embraced the movement, this is the first year it has become a "major city initiative," said Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard.
"It's important that people understand in this city we need the support of neighborhood associations and all the people on the streets to help the Police Department," Ballard said during the event. "That's why this message is so important."
The message this year is new and is aimed at combating the common perception in crime-ridden communities that reporting a crime carries a connotation of snitching.
Police have handled premeditated crimes that could have been prevented if people who knew they were going to occur had reported them, said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Michael Spears.
He encouraged residents to report crimes through Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana, an anonymous tip line, or to inform police through calls, e-mails, letters or visits.
"What we want within the Police Department more than anything is a relationship of trust," Spears said. "Through that relationship, we'll receive information, suggestions and ideas that will let us do a better job with our work."
Spears said violent crimes in the city this year have declined from 2007, which saw lower rates than the near-record high of 2006. Meanwhile, there's been an increase in crimes such as theft.
About 15 billboards, which are funded by Crime Stoppers and Peace in the Streets with support from Clear Channel, will go up throughout the summer. The first one is at 914 E. Michigan St., just east of Downtown.
Peace in the Streets Director Aaron Williams said the goal is to put them in neighborhoods with high crime rates. If a violent crime occurs, he said, he hopes a billboard can be put in that area within 24 hours. [Mark Godsey]