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Success of crime prevention grants questioned

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INDIANAPOLIS – Since 2009, Mayor Greg Ballard has made approximately $10 million of city money available to pay for community crime prevention programs, but city leaders are uncertain if the funds have been well spent.

“There’s some isolated success in that report, but not enough data for me,” said Ben Hunter, the City-County Council’s point man on crime prevention grants. “I want to see more than just what we gave an organization and what they spent it on.”

From 2011 through 2013, the Indy Parks Foundation was responsible for handing out $3.5 million to various community organizations that applied for grants.

In 2011-12, 3,000 adults were served by several organizations; 45 percent of the clients completed their programs within a year. Most of the clients were under 25 years old. Of those adults, 133 were arrested and 166 were employed for 90 days.

Midway through the 2012-13 funding year, nearly 1,400 adults have been served while 15 percent have completed their program. A majority of the clients—87 percent—are older than 24 years old. Of those adults, 55 have been arrested and 70 have held on to a job for three months.

The statistics for the current program year would indicate that an emphasis has been placed on serving older prison parolees returning to city neighborhoods.

In 2011-12, approximately 7,500 children were served with nearly 4,000 completing a youth protective skills class. Nearly 5,000 volunteer hours were counted and 84 children were arrested.

A year later, during the first six months of the programs, 536 youth were served. Three were returned to detention.

IPF consultant Lena Hackett said during the current funding year, it was determined that money would be spent on programs targeting at-risk youth and not on organizations serving youngsters who were likely to stay out of trouble.

“Of the applications that came across that were focused on youth, there were a lot of good programs about things to prevent youth from committing a crime,” Hackett said. “What was missing in a lot of them was, could you demonstrate that this population of youth that you’re going to serve was involved in some behavior where they exhibited they were likely to commit a crime?”

Organizations that serve youth argued that their goal was to prevent youngsters from getting in trouble as opposed to other programs aimed at returning adult with prison records to communities.

“Both are noble causes and both need to be funded,” said Hunter, “but it’s going to be a challenge to see which gets funded. The original intent… is that it does go toward youth.”

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs inherited some spending oversight when he was hired by Ballard last fall.

“We have to look at everything from truancy to reentry. If we just focus on just one of these issues that we have laid out to review, then we are not going to be successful,” Riggs said.

“You have youth violence type issues that are unique to youth. Violence activities that are unique to adults and then you have something we don’t talk about a whole lot: mental illness and how are we dealing with mental illness in our community as a preventative way to keep people from being a victim of a crime or a perpetrator of a crime,” Riggs said.

Hunter, Riggs and Ballard’s office received copies of the IPF follow-up report from Fox 59 News.

“The program was intentionally designed to be administered and tracked outside of city government,” said Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter when asked if the mayor’s staff had ever seen the report.

Riggs told Fox 59 News that he would like to arrange a meeting with Hackett and the Central Indiana Community Foundation to review the IPF report.

After two years, IPF chose not to continue its administration of the grants. CICF is currently developing an application process for 2013-14 grant requests.

Ballard recently signed an ordinance passed by the City-County Council to make $2 million available to community organizations, though some complain that the council’s delay in passing the ordinance means money would be available to pay for summer programs until August or September.

Hackett said transitional meetings have been held between the IPF and CICF staffs so that the spending lessons learned the last two years will not be lost on the new administrators.