INDIANAPOLIS — It was almost a year ago, November 5, 2019, to be exact, when Mayor Joe Hogsett and most City County Council members ran for re-election with a few newcomers also winning their seats, many of them pledging to keep Indianapolis safe during their terms in office.
Since that most recent Election Day, IMPD has investigated 235 homicides in 363 days, the city has set a new annual record for murder and it’s likely to set a new mark for non-fatal shootings, too.
“If we were all running today, I think the voters would be very skeptical of the city’s ability to curb crime and violence,” said Republican Councilor Paul Annee, Jr., while standing outside a polling place in Perry Township, “and the big issue I think is safer neighborhoods.”
In October of 2019, the city recorded 14 homicides on its way to nearly equaling an all-time record as fourth quarter crime statistics showed an upward trend leading into 2020.
Last month, IMPD investigated 30 homicides and the city is on a pace to suffer 240 killings this year, nearly 70 more than the previous record.
“While we have seen an increase, I would say that by and large we’ve been able to hold off the increases and spikes we have seen in other parts of the country,” said Council Vice President Zach Adamson, a Democrat from the near eastside. “We’ve seen a drop in overall crime but violent crime, especially homicides, has gone up.
“Without addressing the overarching issue which is the saturation of firearms in our streets this conversation is definitely going to be incomplete.”
The mayor and the Council are willing to throw another $4.3 million into that conversation next year with more crime prevention grant funding on top of the $3 million per year that’s been spent every year during Hogsett’s administration.
The extra $1.3 million will be divided up among the 25 councilors to be spent on programs specific to their districts.
“I think we’re looking at ways to diversify our public safety spending to get more public services into our economically challenged communities, more addiction services, we’re seeing the criminal justice center is about to come on line with our diversion program,” said Adamson. “What we have been ignoring is programs to actually prevent crimes so crime prevention grants have not been very successful in addressing that particular type of programming in our city.
“We’re gonna see a lot more grassroots innovation which is what I think is going to tip the scales in our favor,” he said. “Any program that is going to be investing in young people, in conflict resolution, engaging in communications skill sets, these are the things that we are seeing, people really don’t communicate with each other.
“We’re trying new things.”
Council Republicans, outnumbered 20-5, prefer public safety spending that has worked in the past.
“We’ve spent a tremendous amount of money. It seems like we’re continuing to throw the same stuff at the wall and it’s just not sticking, so what makes you think that this year the money is going to do something?” asked Annee. “I’m talking more police officers to get to a more legitimate and personal beat policing style that we saw in the early nineties, we need to get a public safety director.”
Annee was among a group of Republicans and community leaders who pushed for an Indianapolis violent crime summit in the winter before the coronavirus hit Indiana.
“I think there was talk of a plan but that plan was never seen and never materialized so I think 2020 was the perfect storm for Indianapolis,” he said, citing the pandemic shutdown and spring riots over social injustice on top of the fourth quarter 2019 homicide upward trend. “A year later we have seen crime in Indianapolis the likes we have never experienced before and we’ve got a lot of the year left.”
Mayor Hogsett was unavailable for comment today.