Mayor Hogsett outlines changes to public safety strategy

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INDIANAPOLIS– Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett outlined changes to the City’s approach to public safety on Thursday.

Hogsett is expected to hold a press conference around 3:30 p.m. to discuss his plan. We’ll provide a livestream of the event in this story.

He says the City worked on a multi-departmental approach with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS), and the Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD).

Goals for this plan include combating gun violence, promoting public health, beautifying downtown spaces, and providing needed resources to neighbors experiencing homelessness.

“We are committed to increasing safety and livability throughout Marion County and tackling challenges that put individuals at risk,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened existing stressors for many of our most vulnerable residents. At a time of necessary social distancing and strained public health resources, City departments have acted with creativity and compassion. We will continue to respond where there is need across our city and work to maintain downtown as the vibrant core Indianapolis deserves.”

The strategy is broken down into four parts:

Downtown cleanliness

DPW will increase their power-washing efforts and utilize a second-shift crew to focus on areas in need of sanitation. This work will happen five days a week through Labor Day.

The Pathway to Employment program, which connects those who are homeless or panhandling with paying jobs and skills that can lead to employment, had been shut down temporarily due to the pandemic. The program recently resumed its work and Hogsett plans to nearly double the number of participants working in these roles.

Resources for those experiencing homelessness

The Office of Public Health and Safety is working with Ezkenazi Health to hire a full-time position that will work in the downtown area, and help to coordinate efforts between healthcare professionals, public safety officials, and service providers to ensure that more individuals experiencing homelessness have access to adequate support.

Hogsett plans to increase resources for IMPD’s Street Outreach Team to increase digital resources and better share information in real time with direct service providers.

The City of Indianapolis will expand its non-congregate housing project, which provides temporary housing in hotel rooms to those experiencing homelessness, to promote social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus.

Hogsett says the Rueben Engagement Center will soon resume services for individuals who are experiencing homelessness and substance abuse issues. The Center will issue a safe temporary hotel accommodation where the person can get targeted services from the Center and get connected to other resources.

The City has installed additional portable bathrooms and hand washing stations in high-traffic areas to provide sanitary bathroom options and encourage good personal hygiene for those experiencing homelessness.

Downtown safety

Hogsett says the City is “taking a holistic approach to public safety in downtown.”

The effort will combine IMPD’s Community Engagement Unit, Community Relations officers, and a Homeless Outreach street team, as well as the department’s beat officers and bike patrol unit.

Due to an uptick in reported drug dealing, Hogsett says the department used a narcotics unit to “investigate and arrest individuals preying on vulnerable residents.”

Also part of this plan, as previously announced, the Department of Metropolitan Development added two off-duty overnight shifts for IMPD from 10:30 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. along the Downtown Canal Walk. These shifts will include a combination of bike/foot patrols with special attention paid to the Canal Playspace and the Walnut Street bridge.

Additionally, the City says DMD is working with DPW to address lighting issues along the popular recreation corridor.

Local business resources

The City has personal protective equipment (PPE) reimbursement programs for small businesses and non-profits to help with some pandemic-related costs.

The City and the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ #MaskUpIndy public art campaign aims to encourage downtown residents and visitors to wear face coverings.

Any Marion County resident can get a free mask from the City’s website.

Mayor Hogsett previously announced a $1 million marketing campaign aimed at attracting Hoosiers to visit Indianapolis.

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