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Faced with a nearly 30 percent increase in homicides over a year ago, Mayor Greg Ballard and Public Safety Director Troy Riggs unveiled a new efficiency team responsible for developing a strategy to reduce violent crime rates in Marion County.

“This is not a program. This is not a project. This is not an initiative,” said Public Safety Director Troy Riggs. “This is a new way of doing business for the city and for the police department.”

In late January, city officials announced more than two dozen efficiency teams were created to take a top-to-bottom review of public safety, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and crime related issues in Indianapolis. Thursday, officials announced the establishment of the Violent Crime Review Team, which will consist of about 30 members from varying agencies, including law enforcement and criminal justice officials, as well as community representatives such as the 10-Point Coalition. The team will be headed by IMPD Chief Rick Hite.

Hite said that non-fatal shootings outnumber homicides by a 5-1 ratio.

“Victims of crime and their families, their lives are altered because of violent crime,” said Riggs. “Future generations are altered because of violent crime.”

For the week ending March 9, the police department reported 22 homicides, versus 17 homicides at this point in 2012. Since that time, two more killings have occurred. Additionally, aggravated assaults and robberies are up, though rape cases have reduced by 15 percent.

“Last year marked the third consecutive year IMPD reported fewer than 100 murders, but we cannot rest on our laurels,” said Mayor Ballard. “Therefore, I have directed DPS to develop a plan to reduce violent crime in our city. Naturally, if we bring down that number, the murder rate will continue to drop.”

Riggs has said in the past that he wants to track violent crime, from its suspects and offenders to its origins in families and schools then through the law enforcement and criminal justice system to incarceration and return to the community.

The efficiency team may look at tracking at-risk youngsters to identify earlier which children might be victims or suspects and offer counseling, alternative sentencing and behavior modification that impacts the entire family.

“We have already in the area of truancy taken steps to hold parents accountable and where appropriate we will do so in gun cases as well,” said Prosecutor Terry Curry.

The Indianapolis program will be similar to the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, which was launched in 2005.

Founding Director Mallory O’Brien told Fox 59 News that the commission has successfully reduced the number of homicides and non-fatal shootings in Milwaukee through analysis of neighborhoods, victims and suspects and developing city ordinances and patrol and investigation alternatives to combat violent crime.

As police, prosecutors and probation authorities share information, they are better able to track those at risk of not only committing crimes but also being victimized.

Department of Corrections probation officers are now advised when a parolee is involved in a crime and agents then not only visit that parolee, but other ex-offenders living on the same block to advise them of the crime and the investigative efforts to solve it.

O’Brien said that the commission was successful in finding money to support a witness protection fund so that witnesses to violent crime would not be intimidated about coming forward.

Milwaukee police officers now have access to follow up information regarding juvenile offenders who return home or are back on the streets after arrests.

Homicides in Milwaukee taverns dropped after directed patrols were assigned on weekends and a city ordinance requiring surveillance cameras in bars was adopted.

Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Birmingham, Alabama, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Saginaw, Mich., have all adopted parts of the Milwaukee approach to combating violent crime.

O’Brien said homicides fell by 52 percent in districts where the plan was originally rolled out.

In Milwaukee, an executive committee, including the district attorney, police chief, mayor, U.S. Attorney, attorney general, DOC chief and community organization directors, oversees the operation of the commission on an ongoing basis to maintain the pressure and funding for the city’s assault on violent crime.

The Violent Crime Review Team will have its initial meeting on Friday.  The team is expected to submit a draft of its 2013 plan by May 1 and the final plan by May 31. Information pertaining to the team’s work can be accessed here.