Police, public safety director hope for safer city in 2015

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The number of criminal murders in Indianapolis is up slightly compared to last year. We've seen 135 murders in the city in 2014, with one day remaining in the year. That's compared to 125 last year.

In October, city leaders unveiled a plan they believe will get at the root causes of  violence.

Those in the Department of Public Safety and officers on the streets will tell you, more police won't solve all the problems in Indianapolis. Other initiatives will be key in 2015.

"We're always kind of on alert this time of year," said Officer Shawn Smith, as FOX59 rode along with him on Tuesday afternoon.

Smith's been on patrol for IMPD for nine years. He said he's observed a mentality change on the streets. People are more willing to fight rather than settle disputes. And the drug of choice switched from crack cocaine to heroin.

"You see a surge in a narcotic, you're going to see an increase in violence, the people that are behind supplying that in order to maintain what they have," said Smith.

In fact officers, he said, are more observant, aware of the dangers, knowing a call can turn deadly in an instant.

"We try and stay two people on a run as much as possible now," said Smith.

Officer Rod Bradway died in the line of duty in 2013. Officer Perry Renn was killed earlier this year.

"I knew Rod Personally," said Smith, "It was less than thirty seconds. I heard him, and I heard the responding officer say officer down."

Recruits are with training officers now, and there's a promise of more new police on the streets. But everyone acknowledges more police is one part of fighting crime in the Circle City.

"More cops isn't going to be the lone answer. It's going to help us, and we need it. But we also need things to take place that will set people on paths to keep them from becoming criminal," said Smith.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs points to a plan unveiled in October, which he predicts will make the city safer.

"Our hope is that the end of 2015, you will see significant improvement in this safety of this city," said Riggs.

In the plan, DPS targeted six spots in the city, neighborhoods where crime, poverty, and blight are rampant. The goal is to flood the areas with services, like employment opportunities and training, so people can get skills to get jobs and stay away from crime.

Still, 2015 will be a true test of that plan. Riggs said the city is working through issues but maintains that Indianapolis is safe.

"If you live in Indianapolis and you're not a drug dealer, you don't have a past crime, you don't have a past gun crime, you do not have a past felony crime, the chances of you being a victim of a violent crime, whether it's a homicide or shooting, still very low," Riggs said.

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