Communication is key

Debbie Conway is awarded 2017 IMPD Southeast Crimefighter of the Year for her leadership in Bean Creek Neighborhood Association

Debbie Conway is awarded 2017 IMPD Southeast Crimefighter of the Year for her leadership in Bean Creek Neighborhood Association

Crimefighter recipients of all IMPD districts. *Submitted photos.

Since joining the Bean Creek Neighborhood Association, Debbie Conway doesn’t feel the same way about Indianapolis as she used to. It’s starting to feel smaller, as she’s gotten to know her neighbors and they work together to make the community a better place to live.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department named Conway as the 2017 Southeast District Crimefighter of the Year for her efforts to clean up the neighborhood. She was nominated for the award by Bean Creek President Bernie Price and IMPD Sgt. David Gard. It was presented to her by Southeast District Commander Dawn Snyder at National Night Out on Aug. 1.

“Over the past year Debbie has worked closely with neighbors, officers and the City to ensure a better quality of life for her community,” wrote Gard in the nomination essay. “I have worked alongside her and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful to beautify the area. We’ve worked together on ridding the neighborhood of a nuisance house and kept an eye on the corner market store to prevent it from becoming a location of unsavory activity. Debbie is the kind of neighbor everyone wants and needs.”

Conway, who works as a graphic designer, grew up in Greenwood. Her two children were raised in Whiteland. When she married her husband, Keith, they moved to the Southside of Indianapolis 17 years ago.

From left, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, Debbie Conway and IMPD Captain Ron Hicks.

“Greenwood is much different than living in Center Township,” she said. “It was very much a culture shock for me – the amount of rentals, unkept property, crime, neighbors not knowing each other.”

When Bernie Price decided to revive the Bean Creek Neighborhood Association in 2016, Conway was interested in becoming part of the group.

“Our household has experienced crime,” she said. “We had our windows in our vehicles shot out two times, windows broken, drug houses close to us, drug dealing on our street. We want to make a difference and change the neighborhood into what it used to be.”

Since its revival, the neighborhood association has received a lot of support from IMPD Southeast District, particularly the community relations officers, Conway said.

“Ann Westropp and the other community relations officers have been great at directing us, getting us to recognize how to make changes and getting us to understand that nothing happens overnight,” Conway said. “One thing I’ve learned, there are a lot of officers that really and truly care. Maybe you don’t always see that. A lot of them are really willing to assist neighborhood associations when they truly know you’re willing to work with them and wanting to make a difference.”

L to R: Bernie Price, Bean Creek NA president, Jadey Straub, granddaughter of Debbie Conway, Debbie Conway, Amy St. John and Ike McCoy, our Mayor’s Advocate.

Bean Creek has been led primarily by three women: Price, Conway and Amy St. John. Although they didn’t know each other prior, Conway said they quickly became close friends. Their duties are divided: Price manages infrastructure, St. John does communication on social networks and Nextdoor and Conway is chair of the crime watch committee and handles communication with IMPD. She also created the neighborhood logo and designed the meeting yard sign artwork.

“Each committee we’ve tried to draw in as many people as we could,” she said. “We want to be a neighborhood association that accomplishes things. We don’t meet every month and leave, not having accomplished something.”

The association has had a few victories in its short time of existence, such as a drug and prostitution house along State Street that has since been boarded up.

In addition to volunteering with Bean Creek, she has also adopted Hoefgen Street through Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, so she spends picking up trash and cleaning up the street. Her two grandchildren and even neighborhood kids will come out to help.

“I don’t know how she does it – but she somehow manages to work full-time and volunteer untold hours to helping her neighbors, police officers, City and community,” said Snyder as she presented the award. “She’s as dedicated and hardworking as they come. Her tireless efforts have created a safer and more caring community. She truly embodies the spirit of partnership between police and community!”

The biggest challenge, Conway said, is getting more people involved in the association. The group is actively seeking more neighbors who want to get involved and make a change.

“Sometimes it feels like you’re pulling teeth,” Conway said. “We’re just not giving up. It takes time and patience. If you give up, nothing happens. It isn’t easy. Everybody wants to wait for somebody else to solve the problem. It is a challenge, but if we want to make the neighborhood great, we’re just going to have to keep going with it.”