Stephanie Zepelin - INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- An Indianapolis neighborhood is on edge after a string of break-ins. But these aren't part of some normal run-of-the-mill crime spree. A local woman says troubled teens from a nearby psychiatric treatment center are to blame. Police confirm the teens are runaways from the center who, somehow, keep getting out.
Jane Smith is scared for herself and for her neighbors. She said the teens are using a vacant house as their hangout. From the street, the house looks like any other home in her neighborhood. But she walked around the property with I-Team 8, showing us what she said is evidence of the kids' break-ins.
"They tried to pry in all the screens," said Smith, pointing out the bend frame on the window screens.
"(You) can see where they had kicked the door in," she said, gesturing to a shoe print on the door.
Smith said in the middle of September, she started seeing kids she had not seen before around the southeast Indianapolis neighborhood.
"Everybody's on edge around here and we don't have crime in here," said Smith.
Smith said the kids are from Resource Residential Treatment Facility located south of Fountain Square at 1404 S. State Ave.
She said they break out, walk to her neighborhood, and hang out in the empty house. She said the teens broke down a wall in the center and got out. Smith also said that the police said "that they get calls there on a continuous basis, like four or five times a day."
"Everybody's on edge around here and we don't have crime in here."
Records from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department show 10 calls to that vacant house just since September 14.
"They broke into my son's truck and took a key fob," Smith said.
Police told I-Team 8 they handcuff the kids to take them back to Resource Residential Treatment Facility, but that's not the end of the issue.
"They were back, they broke out four hours later, they were back the next morning," Smith said.
IMPD records show Resource employees meet up with officers to get the runaways and bring them back to the facility. Police records also show the kids pull the fire alarms in the facility, so the doors will unlock and they can get out.
I-Team 8 went through data from the Indianapolis Fire Department. In six months, they were called to Resource 37 times.
I-Team 8 reached out to Resource Residential Treatment Center, which calls itself a "life-changing psychiatric residential treatment facility for children and young adults." They denied multiple requests for interviews, instead sending the following statement:
We are proud of our long history of providing care to our patients and their families in highly structured treatment programs. Our health care professionals are committed to ensuring the physical and emotional wellbeing of our patients. Due to federal and state patient privacy and confidentiality laws, we cannot comment on any specific patient or alleged incidents."
However, data from IMPD shows calls not just to Smith's neighborhood, but also to the center itself. January through September of 2017, IMPD got almost 90 calls for runaways from Resource. Sometimes, police reported there were "multiple," or "several" runaways, or even habitual runaways. But taking the kids back to the center does not seem solve the problem.
"They take them back to…the resource center and they do whatever they do to get out of there," Smith said.
And she is not only worried about her safety at home.
"You've got the police department that have a ton of stuff to do and you're taking them away to go and reprimand these juveniles," she said. "So I think the resource center needs to find a way to secure this area, to secure these adults that have to take care of them."
I-Team 8 talked with the Department of Child Services. DCS cannot speak specifically about this facility, so we asked about runaways.
"Most of the time they'll contact law enforcement and let them know because obviously a child running away is a huge safety concern," said Stephanie Shene, Communications Coordinator with DCS.
I-Team 8 asked what would happen if there were a significant number of runaway calls for one facility. DCS said it is "absolutely" something it would look into.
However, DCS cannot tell us if they're looking into the number of runaways from Resource.
Until something changes or the vacant house gets rented, Smith and her neighbors will worry about the kids safety and their own.
"If these kids need help, we got to figure out a better system," said Smith. "It's just like a vicious circle, we keep going around with these kids."
IMPD said "the Southeast district is working with Resource and the state to solve this issue."
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