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Republican mayoral Jim Merritt unveils public safety plan

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- State Senator Jim Merritt, the republican candidate to unseat incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett this fall, rolled out his plan to improve public safety in Indianapolis if he’s elected.

“MERRITT MOVES: Initiatives for a Safer Indianapolis” was dated June 1, 2019, but unveiled for reporters Thursday.

It includes many criticisms, some fresh ideas and several reiterations of initiatives or proposals already undertaken by Hogsett.

Under the banner, “S-O-S”, which stands for, Safety, Opportunity, Streets, Merritt pledged to name a deputy mayor to focus on public safety, provide IMPD with more cops and patrol cars, improve technology for officers burdened by paperwork and, “refine beat policing.”

“I think a complete re-examination of law enforcement in the county, in IMPD, is in order,” said Merritt. “Right now we don’t have the change in our community, our community is not safe, what I’m looking for is what I’m going to do as mayor.”

Merritt promised to improve public safety leadership training, hire more emergency medical technicians, replace IMPD’s helicopter, enhance use of artificial intelligence and data gathering in policing, emphasis training of homicide detectives, launch addiction-intervention programs and support bodegas and food rescue efforts to alleviate hunger.

Hogsett currently has many similar programs in place.

“There is a fear out there of people being in their homes and out of their homes,” said Merritt. “Over the past three years we have seen new records for murders each year in Indianapolis.”

That is true, however, a year ago today Indianapolis had recorded its 76th homicide of 2018.

The 2019 total as of this morning stands at 72 homicides, and Wednesday morning Hogsett told reporters that overall crime was down more than ten percent in Indianapolis last year.

Merritt was asked twice how much his public safety plans would cost and where would the money come from.

“We don’t have a fiscal impact of it. I don’t have all the answers,” he said, asking for time to work out the details until next Jan. 1 when Indianapolis’ next mayor will be sworn into office. “We will get our arms around the complete problem. You can’t solve the problem until you understand all the factors of the problem and once we understand the crisis that we’re in, as mayor I will solve it. We have to.”

Standing off to the side of Merritt’s announcement event was a man who also sees himself being sworn into office next New Year’s Day, independent and as-of-yet unofficial candidate for mayor John Schmitz.

“I just want to help our city. I don’t really care who does it. Its just gotta be somebody who’s gonna step up and actually do something with boots on the ground out in the community,” he said. “When you’re in a hole, the first thing to get out of a hole is to quit digging, and I see us just continuing to spiral down.”

Schmitz has until July 1 to submit 6106 signatures on petitions to the Marion County Election Board to secure a place on the November ballot.

“These feel good plans are not effective. Just look around our city,” he said. “It doesn’t match what they have.”

Schmitz said he stumbled upon Merritt’s announcement while stopping by the northeast market where the news conference was being held to pick up his petitions. He said Merritt’s campaign staff told him to stop taping the news conference on his cell phone.

Also in attendance was Silvano Farris, who claims he is building a coalition of concerned residents from the 4200 Post Road corridor.

Farris said he was unimpressed with Merritt’s roll out.

“He say that they working on it and they looking into a whole lot of solutions but he didn’t give me a straight up answer because he said its an ongoing thing, but the solution to the problem is that we’re locking people up for petty crimes and keeping them in jail when we should have them working for the infrastructure of the city and getting paid and they should rehabilitate themselves and get picked up off the ground,” said Farris. “If you gonna do more for the veterans and the homeless, why can’t you tell me the simple fact of the program that you got in store for the homeless and the veterans and plus for the criminals in our neighborhood?”

Merritt highlighted his expertise in writing legislation at the statehouse in response to Indiana’s opioid crisis and his plan laid out several proposals to combat gun violence.

“There has to be a great deal of more emphasis on gun safety, gun suicide and the overall feeling that that might be one of the keys to keeping us safe,” said Merritt.

Those ideas including implementing a program to trade guns for laptops as a variation on traditional gun buyback campaigns, provide free gun locks and lock boxes to firearms owners, a public media and mentoring campaign to discourage gun use by children, focused deterrence in communities afflicted with gun violence and efforts to combat firearms suicides.

In response, the Hogsett campaign issued a statement claiming Merritt, “failed to articulate a clear policy vision and conceded he has no plan to provide funding for his ideas…and the result appears to be a plan to hire someone six months from now to come up with a plan.”

The Hogsett campaign release touted the mayor’s overhaul of public safety, neighborhood-based public strategies, funding decisions based on data and research, investments in public safety technology and community violence reduction programs and promises to hire 150 more police officers by the end of the year.

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