EDITORIAL: Delegating mayor must lead on crime

IBJ Staff
July 13, 2013
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IBJ Editorial

Mayor Greg Ballard isn’t known as a hands-on leader.

His deputies have led efforts to add bike lanes, replace the city’s vehicle fleet with hybrids, and underwrite downtown developments like CityWay.

But simply setting a vision won’t work on crime. It’s time for Ballard to roll up his sleeves, put aside partisanship, and lead on the issue he promised five years ago would be “job one.”

There are no easy fixes for the ugly crime wave this summer. A toxic mix of poverty, unemployment, guns, drugs and desperation can’t all be bottled up and kept under control by more cops on the street.

But more must be done to keep the peace, particularly downtown, where large groups of unruly teens and Saturday-night shootings are putting at risk billions of dollars of public and private investment in the convention and tourism business. Every shooting on the Central Canal or outside Circle Centre mall erodes confidence.

The mayor’s staff points to statistics showing overall crime is down this year. That’s hard to believe given the only crime statistic that can’t be manipulated—the murder rate—is up more than 40 percent. But no matter: This is a perception game, and persistent impressions are left by high-profile incidents like the murder of a 16-year-old July 4 at one of the city’s busiest downtown intersections.

Most of Ballard’s “new” cops on the street are reassigned neighborhood resource officers. Promised future recruiting classes could add 100 officers by 2016, but that won’t even replace those expected to retire.

Ballard vetoed a $6 million allocation from Rebuild Indy funds to pay for new officers. Democrats on the City-County Council picked the number because it matches the amount Ballard is spending on an international sports park including cricket fields.

The mayor cited the need for a pay-as-we-go approach to public safety, arguing the city should use only dedicated, recurring funding sources.

That might sound fiscally prudent, but it’s less so when you consider how much Rebuild Indy money the city is spending on routine road maintenance, and how many dollars of public investment are riding on public safety. The city has borrowed endlessly via a downtown tax increment finance district to keep downtown’s momentum going with new projects.

If crime spirals out of control, the hotels won’t fill beds, the restaurants won’t seat tables, and the convention center won’t reserve its massive halls. And good luck with that bid for the 2018 Super Bowl.

Ballard should call together officials with IndyGo (which ferries many of the trouble-making teens downtown), Simon Property Group Inc. (which manages Circle Centre mall, where large groups of teens gather) and Indianapolis Downtown Inc. to discuss ways to keep crowds under control. And he should ask for help from Democratic Marion County Sheriff John Layton and the state police.

Marshal your resources and find new ones. All the freshly paved roads and bike lanes and new downtown apartments won’t matter much if the residents don’t feel safe.•

To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.


  • Reap. Sow. Bang. Bang.
    Indy leadership has been blinded by delusions of grandeur. They have earned nothing from places like Detroit and St. Louis, both of which have lost over 60% of their population over the last 50 years while investing ever more in downtowns that are doomed to fail. Meanwhile, cities like Portland, Minneapolis and Denver chose to invest in primarily in livability issues and neighborhoods. They are not crime free, but they are vibrant and safe in a way Indianapolis is not. The poverty that leads to violence doesn't just happen. It is a direct effect of a population that largely attempts to ignore and compartmentalize it. You reap what you sow, Indy. Deal.
  • Take care of your kids
    while it the role of city officials to keep things safe. It is the responsibility of parents to take care of their Children. There are plans in place, Now do your job and watch your kids.
  • Accountability
    Friends recently asked me to dinner downtown. I told them I couldn’t go as my Kevlar vest was at the cleaners. Parents can’t control their kids if they aren’t with them. Enforce parental control; no unaccompanied minors after 4 pm in the downtown area. Until parents are accountable and get their children under control, there’s no hope for the areas currently under siege. If a dog is running loose, creating a nuisance and picked up by animal control, the owner has to pay a fine. Hitting parents in the pocket might grab their attention.
  • crime effort
    Crime is not just about downtown and the murder rate. The increased crime rate has spread to as far north as castleton with broad ripple and glendale areas under seige. More police may not be the answer. But working everyday on the drug issue can be a huge solution. The mayor is clearly asleep at this wheel
  • Take care of your kids !
    While it is the job of city leaders to keep out streets safe. But it is the job of parents to keep watch of their kids. Use the race card or politics. Come on people. Take care of your own,

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