Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said he believes frequent gun violence in Indianapolis is not a problem limited to the capital city’s borders.
That’s why two years ago the Fishers Police Department partnered with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to process confiscated guns through the Indianapolis Crime Gun Intelligence Center.
By entering ballistics and forensic information from the guns involved in crimes into the database, police are able to track whether that gun is linked to any other crimes in the region.
Since March 2019, out of the 183 crime guns collected in Fishers, 101 have been traced to violent crimes in Indianapolis. The gun that was used to kill Fishers police dog Harlej in 2019 was connected to eight shootings and two homicides.
“Prior to the way that we were operating, we might have pulled over a murderer or a felon who just did an armed robbery, and we would have no idea. No idea whatsoever,” Fadness said. “So, we get into this program, and we’re like, holy cow, this is something that is truly impactful and we can start making a big difference.”
Now, Fadness is working with state lawmakers to expand it to the other surrounding counties and is seeking $10 million in state funding to make it happen.
House Bill 1558, authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, would create the Indiana Crime Guns Task Force that would include Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion, Morgan, Johnson and Shelby counties. The latest version of the state budget allocates $5 million per year to the initiative.
“This is just a collaboration between these entities,” Steuerwald said.
The bill would establish an executive board to oversee the task force, and every police department from a participating county would have representation on the board. IMPD would provide administrative support for the task force.
The House passed the bill 96-1 last month, and the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee approved the bill unanimously on Tuesday.
IMPD Capt. Michael Bruin said the “magic” of the program is that police can identify the individuals who are repeatedly firing a gun and then stop them.
“Most people aren’t ever going to fire a gun in a crime, but the ones that do, do it repeatedly,” Bruin said.
Bruin said the database helped Indianapolis police officers make 1,085 connections to a gun being used in more than one crime last year, and he thinks that number will be higher this year.
Fishers Police Chief Ed Gebhart said he thinks some Indianapolis-area communities may want to believe violent crime is restricted to Indianapolis, but it’s not.
“One way to look at it is their crime is our crime,” Gebhart said. “Their suspects are in our suburbs, our jurisdictions…. the bad guys don’t know any boundaries.”
Fadness said the legislation has strong support from local elected officials and law enforcement.
He said he believes the business community should be interested in it, as well, because it could have a significant impact on improving public safety in Indianapolis, which has been a significant concern for business leaders.
“The corporate community and business community should be proud that this is under way,” Fadness said. “This could be the tip of the sphere for us regionally.”
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said he recently visited the Indianapolis Crime Gun Intelligence Center and was impressed by the collaboration.
“This makes me happy,” Taylor said. “This is a great bill.”