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City files for eminent domain to acquire Oaktree Apartments

The Department of Metropolitan Development has filed suit in Marion County Superior Court to acquire Oaktree Apartments through eminent domain. The complex, vacant since 2014 due to a court order, has been deteriorating for the last decade because of neglect from the property owner and became a hotbed for crime, vandalism and fires.

The complex was cut off from Section 8 housing in 2010 because the property owner, Indy Diamond LLC, didn't meet housing standards, and it didn't make an effort to bring the property into compliance with local code, according to a press release from the city. After burst pipes deteriorated the property further in 2014, the Marion County Health Department condemned the complex, and the Marion County Superior Court ordered the removal of the remaining 46 tenants.

"For more than 10 years the Oaktree Apartments have held back the Far Eastside," Indianapolis CityCounty Councilor La Keisha Jackson said in the release. "One owner, one landlord, has allowed this to go on for far too long, but thanks to the Hogsett administration and local community leaders, we're taking a stand for the residents of the Far Eastside."

If the city acquires the property, it will demolish the complex and prepare for future redevelopment, including the possibility of "transit-oriented development," according to the release.

"Filing suit for eminent domain is the first step to improving the public health and safety of nearby residents and beginning to repair the damage this blighted property has done to the neighborhood," Mayor Joe Hogsett said in the release. "Indianapolis is its neighborhoods, and when we uplift each community, we become a strong city together."


Local residents and IMPD work to reduce e-commerce crimes

Chris Staab, chair of East District's Community Resource District Council, remembered a family he met during a police ride along in November 2017. They found a truck for sale online, and the entire family went to an unfamiliar neighborhood to purchase it. When the family reached their destination, the seller, along with two accomplices, pointed guns at the mother, father and children and stole their money and phones. Between their lack of phones and language barrier, it took a while for the family to call the police. When the police finally arrived at the crime scene, all

they found was an abandoned house. Staab remembered how distraught the family was because what was supposed to be a good deal put their lives in jeopardy.

"It was a sad situation where someone was taken advantage of," Staab said.

Staab said the crime was not an isolated incident but part of a trend of e-commerce robberies, where criminals post deals on online services such as CraigsList and Swapit to lure victims into isolated areas. In 2018, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) recorded 194 incidents of e-commerce robbery. Earlier data is unavailable since IMPD did not track e-commerce robberies as separate crimes until 2018. In order to combat these robberies, both police and individual citizens took strides to make e-commerce safer.

As a response to e-commerce robberies, IMPD opened district headquarters for use as Safe Trading Zones in June 2018 in partnership with Community Resource District Councils. The zones allow people to buy and sell goods at the headquarters, either inside the lobbies or outside the buildings. Traders do not have to call in advance, but IMPD Deputy Chief Chris Bailey requested they inform whoever is working in the lobby. The district headquarters have cameras and police officers to deter robbery attempts. Safe Trading Zones led to a slight decrease in e-commerce robberies. Sixty-five incidents were reported between Jan. 1 and May 7, 2019, compared to 69 within the same time period last year.

"People are taking advantage of using these Safe Trading Zones," Staab said. "... [The number] has gone down even though e-commerce trading is actually on the increase."

Bailey said IMPD Safe Trading Zones are the safest and most recommended option, but well-lit public places you are familiar with could work. He also said never agree to meet at a stranger's home. Assume the worst if someone does not want to meet in either a Safe Trading Zone or a well-lit public place or changes the agreed upon location.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is," Bailey said. "If someone is trying to sell you the latest gadget for a price that seems impossible, then it probably is a trap."

Those who do not want to drive to a police station can consider the app DeliverEnd, which local entrepreneur Nick Turner created after an e-commerce robber stole a friend's iPhone at gunpoint. Before a transaction, DeliverEnd allows the buyer and seller to video chat, call, text and send images to each other to confirm the seller has the item and that it's in good condition. The buyer will then pay electronically and a DeliverEnd driver will pick up the item from the seller and deliver it. Delivery charges will depend on the object's size and what kind of vehicle is needed to transport it. If anything goes wrong, the app has an SOS button that the buyer, seller or driver can use to alert the police and send them the phone's location. DeliverEnd, which launches May 26, will be available within the Indianapolis area and will deliver a maximum of 250 miles outside the city.

"We are the last line of defense," Turner said.

Not only does DeliverEnd remove the need to meet the other party, but it also works as a deterrent. Turner tested an early version of DeliverEnd while buying furniture online. A seller only had one picture of the set, so Turner requested more pictures only to receive a zoomed in screenshot of the original. Turner then called the seller who pretended his phone was running out of battery and hung up. Because the seller failed the screening, Turner believes he avoided an e-commerce robber.

"We're making sure [e-commerce robbery] never happens again," Turner said. "People can buy and sell online without being worried about losing their lives over a cell phone."

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

The following are IMPD district headquarters that act as Safe Trading Zones:

IMPD Southeast District Headquarters

1150 Shelby St.

317-327-6300

IMPD East District Headquarters

201 Shadeland Ave.

317-327-6200

IMPD Downtown District Headquarters

39 W Jackson Place

317-327-6500

IMPD North District Headquarters

3120 E 30th St.

317-327-6100

IMPD Northwest District Headquarters

3821 Industrial Blvd.

317-327-6600

IMPD Southwest District Headquarters

551 King Ave.

317-327-6400

DeliverEnd will be available on the Apple App Store on May 26. It will be available on Android at a later date. To celebrate the release, Indy 500 car 88 will feature DeliverEnd's logo the day it launches during the Indianapolis 500.


Social media advocate fulfills educational goals

Cherise Shockley, a resident of Noblesville, had a goal of getting her degree in mass communication before she was 40. As the creator of the online community Diabetes Social Media Advocacy, she became skilled at social media marketing and wanted to make it her career. However, between her advocacy work, being a working mother and moving often because of her husband's job in the military, Shockley lacked the time for traditional college. Therefore, she enrolled in Arizona State University (ASU) Online at age 37.

Shockley, now 38, accomplished her goal and graduated May 6. ASU flew her to Arizona to receive her degree in person as a representative of ASU Online. Sitting in the ASU auditorium was emotional for Shockley and her family. The degree was the culmination of Shockley's hard work as both a social media advocate and as a student.

"I was filled with so much pride," said Shockley's husband, Scott. "I probably was as emotional as she was to fulfill that dream she's talked about since we've been together."

Shockley's journey to her degree began when she was diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes at age 23. She felt overwhelmed with stigmas and misconceptions about the disease. For example, Shockley was too paranoid to touch sugary food. She felt doctor appointments addressing her diabetes were too short and infrequent to talk about the stress from the disease.

Then Shockley discovered the online diabetes community. Its members swapped stories with Shockley and gave her diabetes lifestyle tips. Eventually Shockley felt accepted and developed confidence as someone with diabetes.

"When I found this community, it opened up my world," Shockley said. "... The diabetes community helped me find my voice."

In 2010, Shockley wanted to help others in a similar way, so she created Diabetes Social Media Advocacy, a platform to share stories about diabetes and combat stigmas and myths such as all diabetes patients being obese. At one point, the page had the

world's largest Twitter chat. Currently, Diabetes Social Media Advocacy has over 19,400 Twitter followers.

To illustrate the support group members give to each other, Shockley recalled Simon, a member who lives in Australia. Simon felt isolated and near suicidal as he coped with the disease until joining Diabetes Social Media Advocacy. To show his gratitude, Simon worked overtime to save money to travel to the U.S. to meet Shockley and other members of the group to thank them in person for saving his life. Shockley said stories like as Simon's encourage her to continue Diabetes Social Media Advocacy.

"Every time I think that [Diabetes Social Media Advocacy] ran its course and I want to stop, I get a note from Simon," Shockley said. "It's kinda like divine intervention."

Her experience operating Diabetes Social Media Advocacy, led Shockley to consider a professional career as a social media marketer. However, she needed a degree. With family and work obligations, Shockley didn't see how school could fit into her already packed schedule. Plus, she tried community college before. At 21 and a parent, Shockley felt out of place among the teenagers who are traditional college age. Eventually, she found ASU Online.

Shockley also stepped into a social media space very similar to the advocacy page she created with Sun Devils Connect, ASU Online's official Facebook page. The page helped Shockley connect with other students attending ASU Online. The students helped each other with homework, offered advice on whose class to take and offered fitness challenges. Through the Facebook page, Shockley befriended fellow working mothers, member of military families and others who could relate to her experience. Shockley would often study with her peers over the phone until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Sometimes they would explain difficult concepts to each other, and encourage each other to hang in there.

"With ASU, what I found is no matter what age someone is, we are all going through the same struggles, and it kind of became this community where strangers from all different walks of life studying different degrees come together. ... I felt like I belonged with this community of people at ASU."

All the late nights and sacrifices paid off when Shockley earned her degree in mass communication and media studies. Now she's putting her experience and education to use as social media and marketing specialist for Roche Holding AG and by continuing Diabetes Social Media Advocacy. Shockley plans to launch a spinoff account advocating for women of color with diabetes.

"People look at social media as this bad thing, but if you look for the good things and you look for community ... that is when you find your tribe," Shockley said. "That is when you find the people that you connect with. That is when you your community, and that is when the magic happens."

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-7627848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.