Lawmakers target crime, violent offenders in new bills

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 15, 2015)-- Indiana lawmakers are targeting violent crime.

Wednesday, Senate Republicans unveiled legislation focused on big cities and violent offenders. Lawmakers are calling it their “crime-reduction package” that will be on the Senate floor over the next few weeks.

“What we want to do is keep people in prison longer that we’re afraid of, who harm our citizens, and not people we’re just mad at,” State Sen. R. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) said, standing outside the police and firefighters memorial outside the Statehouse. "The names behind you on these walls, no one signed up to put their name there."

The proposals include an additional 20 year sentence if a gun is pointed or discharged at a police officer during a crime, increased penalties for certain crimes with a gun and longer sentencing options for prosecutors.

“We think this gives prosecutors more tools to keep violent felons off the streets,” State Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis) said.

Critics question whether the approach will work.

“Now if you just want to put more people in jail, this might be the correct approach,” State Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said. “But I don’t think enhancing a sentence is going to deter a criminal from committing a crime. What deters a criminal from committing a crime is giving them alternatives.”

Another proposal unveiled Wednesday would target the three largest counties in Indiana. The measure would provide $200,000 over the next two years, each for Marion, Lake and Allen counties for local police to fund overtime and hire new officers.

“You can never have too much money in terms of law enforcement,” State Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood) said. “And we have certainly learned over the last few years some parts in our community are experiencing a rise in crime.”

Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, who attended the announcement, said the measures address crime issues the city faces, adding he hopes the public will weigh in on the measures.

“The statehouse is listening,” Riggs said. “This is a healthy discussion, and I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot from the public and a lot from other lawmakers.”

Young said he plans to have the bills through committee, and on the Senate floor, over the two weeks.

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