By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Orlando D. Blount. Tyrone A. Smith. J’Arius Beck.
Those are the names of three young men who were shot in the span of a month in the vicinity of Sonny Ray’s Bar in the 1500 block of Madison Avenue. Whatever their reasons for being in the area, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they paid a high price for it.
Beck, the 24-year-old victim of the most recent shooting on May 4, lost his life. It’s tragic, but investigators and officials said it’s sadly not that uncommon. The area near Sonny Ray’s has been the site of at least 100 shootings, and Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said that while three shootings in a month is unusual, it’s not unprecedented.
“The problem with a lot of shootings in these areas, they’re young guys who are really proud, and they feel like if they ever get disrespected, they need to pull a gun. They feel like that earns them respect,” Cummings said. “Add alcohol into the mix, and it gets deadly.”
It’s a high crime area, but Sonny Ray’s neighborhood isn’t quite the busiest part of town for police.
Anderson is divided into five sectors for police purposes. Sector 1 holds the southeast part of town and contains the many businesses along Scatterfield Road. It’s one of the most heavily populated areas in town, and it’s generally regarded as the highest crime area and the busiest for police. Technically, Sector 5, which encompasses the center of town and much of the downtown area, has more calls for service from police. But Anderson Police Department spokesman Joel Sandefur said that’s slightly skewed because Sector 5 holds the police department, which sees a lot of business.
Calls for service are simply defined as calls to law enforcement that take more than minimal time to resolve. It doesn’t account for arrests, charges or severity of crimes, but it’s a fairly good indicator of crime volume in an area. Calls for service get higher during warm months and in areas with lots of people.
Sector 2 is to the northeast and includes the Anderson University campus. It receives the third-most calls for service. Sonny Ray’s is actually in Sector 3 to the northwest, which ranks fourth in calls for service, though the bar is very close to the downtown area of Sector 5.
Sector 4 is in the southwest. It’s the largest sector by area, but sparsely populated, and receives the fewest calls for service.
Anderson Chief of Police Larry Crenshaw has said he’s a numbers guy, and he uses reams of numbers and statistics to keep his force ahead of crime.
Crenshaw wants his officers to anticipate crimes before they happen.
Sandefur said that can be done with smart distribution. While the numbers vary each year based on population movement and other factors, they remain roughly the same.
“Population, demographics. They really drive the numbers, and you need to know how to look at the numbers,” Sandefur said.
Calls for service are obviously concentrated in higher population areas and areas with businesses. One of the largest business presences in the city is Ricker’s, a chain of gas station convenience stores based in Anderson. Ricker’s owns 50 stores in the state, including locations throughout Madison County.
Owner Jay Ricker said he doesn’t subscribe to the idea that certain areas of the city have greater crime than others. He said he’s found crime is pretty evenly distributed and can happen any time. With that in mind, he said the company trains employees to always be prepared for dangerous situations.
“We tell them to always keep small amounts of money in the drawers, always comply with criminals so they leave as quickly as possible and stay safe,” Ricker said. “Safety of our people is our biggest concern.”
Ricker also said he tries to make his stores unattractive targets for crime, keeping parking lots well-lit, open stores and highly-visible windows.
“We have stores in all kinds of areas in Central Indiana, and I can’t point to one area that’s worse than another,” Ricker said. “Crime is all over the board, and the best thing you can do is be ready for it.”
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