Commentary: Super Bowl pales compared to other woes

June 4, 2007

I had originally planned to write this month's column about the "Titanic-Hindenbergesque" disaster that was last month's primary election in Marion County. I had the best lines all set about the incompetence of the County Clerk's office, the disenfranchisement of more than 3,000 voters, or the hypocrisy of the Amercian Civil Liberties Union, the Indiana Legislative Black Caucus and other groups that oppose Voter ID and don't speak out about the voters who were not able to cast their ballots.

Then came the National Football League decision.

It's old news that Indianapolis lost its 2011 Super Bowl bid. The owner of the Dallas Cowboys put a bid on the table that the NFL could not have refused. The Mayor's Office says that, if it can muster the support, it will try to get the Super Bowl in 2012. I have some mixed emotions about that, because this city has more pressing issues than trying to attract a Super Bowl. I'm referring to crime and the fact that this summer could be one of the worst on record.

The facts are disturbing. Carjackings are at a record level this year. The city has had about 50 homicides so far. According to FBI statistics, Indianapolis was at 44 murders by the end of June 2005 and 68 by the end of June 2006. The city's been averaging a murder every three days, and it's only going to get worse this summer. Ask any police officer. Of course you might have a little trouble finding one.

An internal document that was accidentally e-mailed last month showed the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department with 128-140 street-patrol officer vacancies right now. New recruits are coming into the system, but the 60-plus who are coming online won't be enough to replace the 80 or so expected to retire this year. So a city that was already short 250 officers, according to Sheriff Frank Anderson, is now potentially facing a shortage of 400.

Now add on the brazenness of the offenses this year: the woman who was sexually assaulted across the street from city hall, the 14-year-old who was raped in an abandoned home near John Marshall Middle School, the man who was shot and killed on the west side one morning as he went to work at Kroger. The elderly citizens who are being preyed upon in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood. And don't get me started on what happens after dark.

Now the people in charge will counterargue that crime is up everywhere and Indianapolis is just part of a nationwide trend. With all due respect, that sounds like the nonsense my son would say when he failed a test. The fact that everyone did poorly is no excuse.

What this city needs to do is take the opportunity and harness the same energy, effort and determination to getting a Super Bowl and use that to find the will and the resources to seriously tackle the crime problem. I'm talking more than lip-service and quickly assembled news conferences in respond to the latest attack. I'm talking hiring more police officers and putting an end to the shell game in the Marion County courts that has made it so easy for offenders to post bail and walk if they have a couple bucks in their pocket. I'm talking about creating an atmosphere that says criminals are not welcome.

City leaders have demonstrated they can come together when they need to, so, instead of trying to get an event that's five years down the road, how about we seriously tackle an issue that's really going to get ugly five weeks from now? I'd rather Indianapolis be a super city in 2007 than host a Super Bowl in 2012.



Shabazz is the morning show host on WXNT-AM 1430 and of counsel at the law firm of Lewis & Wilkins. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at ashabazz@ibj.com.
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