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City council to consider declaring ‘public health crisis’ as Indy battles gun violence

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The City- County Council will hear a proposal that would declare gun violence a public health crisis in the Circle City.

The proposal, authored by councilor La-keisha Jackson, comes on the heels of another violent weekend in Indianapolis where two people were killed, including Monica Pirtle, a 35-year-old mother of three.

“My sister couldn’t have been the target. She wasn’t involved in stuff like that,” Pirtle’s sister Markia Baker said.

Pirtle would have turned 36 on Tuesday. She leaves behind three daughters, ages 2, 15, and 18.

“The 2-year-old has to grow up without her mother, the 15-year-old has to continue life without her mother, and the 18-year-old now has to play mother to her sisters,” Baker said.

Pirtle’s death marked the 80th murder in Indianapolis for 2018. At the same time in 2017, the murder count was 70. However, the overall homicide rate of 86 is identical to 2017. IMPD Deputy Chief Chris Bailey says the department has noticed an uptick in personal disputes leading to gun violence than in previous years. Bailey added that those personal disputes are more difficult for IMPD to make an impact on, unlike drug or robbery related crimes.

“We have a problem as a society, where, especially our young people don’t know how to deal with conflict other than violence. People are quick to end their disputes with a gun. And those are hard to get our hands around especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Bailey said.

By declaring gun violence a public health crisis, La-Keisha Jackson says the city would be able to gain access to federal dollars that could help address systemic issues.

“Some of this is about education, it’s about mental health, it’s about the needs of those who are really having issues in our community and how can we get to the systemic root of the problem and not just try to take the problem head on.”

The declaration would also mean the council would direct the Office of Public Health and Safety to work with the county health department to establish and operate programs and seek funding to alleviate the public health crisis.

“I think the time is now, our leadership is ready to help, to move forward, everybody is sick of the gun violence, we’re tired of it,” Jackson said.