Prosecutor says Marion County is in a public safety crisis

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INDIANAPOLIS – Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry sent a letter to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard on Monday morning, pointing to what he calls a public safety crisis.

In his call for more public safety funding, Curry got right to his point:

“If we are to continue to flourish as a world-class city, we must find the means to adequately fund public safety,” Curry wrote. “It is imperative that our community have a serious conversation about the future of crime prevention and public safety in Marion County.”

In the letter, Curry points to several recent examples of an officer shortage hindering crime-fighting efforts. At a recent homicide, Curry says Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson was sent to begin processing the scene because there were no homicide detectives available.

“It was one of those times when we had a number of them and the homicide detectives were going to different scenes and no one was available to go to that scene,” Curry told Fox 59.

Curry’s letter is adding to the public discussion regarding public safety funding.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is short by an estimated 685 officers. The last time the department added to its ranks was in the first part of 2012, when a recruit class of 20 to 25 officers graduated. Curry says IMPD is expected to lose about 100 officers by the end of next year.

“Fifty percent of that force is eligible for retirement right now,” Curry said. “We have an aging police department.”

Curry’s letter also describes a particular case where an IMPD officer had to race to cover an emergency run located outside the officer’s district.

“Twelve miles down I-70 at 90 and 100 miles an hour to respond to a run at 42nd and Post to the near east side,” Curry said. “You talk to patrol officers, they’ll tell you that’s what they’re doing every single day.”

Curry says he doesn’t claim to know the answer to the public safety funding issue. But he does believe the City-County Council will have to find a way to raise new money rather than finding existing money.

“Someone is going to have to have the courage to say that we just cannot fund basic services by continuing to cut budgets year after year after year,” he said.

Curry applauded recent efforts by Public Safety Director Troy Riggs to seek out public-private partnerships to increase funding.

Curry’s letter comes as the city of Indianapolis is facing a $55 million shortfall next year.

Mayor Greg Ballard is expected to present his budget to the City-County Council on August 19. But any type of tax increase is sure to be met with resistance by the mayor’s office and on the council. A recent attempt to raise $8 million by reducing the homestead credit failed.

Some have suggested raising the Public Safety Tax from .35 percent to .5 percent, which could raise about $25 million, but Ballard’s office tells Fox 59 that raising the Public Safety Tax is not on the table for budget discussion.

Democrat Maggie Lewis, president of the City-County Council, tells Fox59 that she would also hope to avoid a tax increase.

“We have other pots of money that’s available to us,” Lewis said. “We have the TIF dollars that we could utilize. So are we really using all the options that are available to us at this point? And I’m not sure that we are.”