EDITORIAL: Find the money to attack crime

April 5, 2014

By all accounts, Nathan Trapuzzano was the kind of citizen Indianapolis is trying to recruit.

The bright young computer programmer from Pennsylvania, who worked at Ivy Tech Community College, was about to start a family with his new wife.

He was stalked, robbed and killed April 1 while on his morning walk in a neighborhood just east of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The crime was senseless—like all of the 39 murders this year in Indianapolis as of IBJ’s deadline. That puts the city on track for a record number of homicides for a second year in a row.

Even more chilling: Police described the crime as random. Trapuzzano may have been picked out for his headphones.

Neighbors have responded with outrage, and police have mobilized in numbers. It’s time for city leaders to drop excuses, drop explanations, drop cries of poverty—and find the money and resources it takes to make our city safer.

For years, Marion County has been losing young families like the Trapuzzanos to the outer suburbs—eroding the tax base and leaving behind budget deficits and rotting infrastructure.

The city under Mayor Greg Ballard has aggressively leveraged its balance sheet to build housing downtown and undertake other initiatives to attract and keep young professionals and their families. It’s an admirable effort to boost the tax rolls and make Indianapolis more attractive to corporations.

The Mayor’s Office has shown a willingness to get creative on financing—when the money goes to developers and contractors. But on public safety, Ballard and his team insist on a strictly pay-as-we-go approach.

That selective fiscal conservatism—if crime continues to spiral out of control—could leave those fancy new downtown buildings empty.

We’ve heard the excuses from politicians at all levels—there just isn’t enough money for preschool education, better primary schools and child care for working parents, programs that might help set impressionable youngsters on a more productive course, or to hire more police offices who live in the neighborhoods they patrol.

We’ve heard the explanations—most victims of crime have a record themselves, and those who remain vigilant are less likely to be victimized.

We’ve heard the spin—statistics that purportedly show overall crime has fallen, while the numbers that can’t be finessed tell another story.

We know more police alone won’t reduce crime. But we haven’t even replaced retiring cops—let alone added police to catch up with a growing population.

Last July, after a 16-year-old boy was gunned down at one of downtown’s busiest intersections, IBJ editorialized that the “Delegating mayor must lead on crime.”

Ballard visited the Trapuzzano crime scene the day after the killing, and by all signs he is angry and determined to act.

He should find more crime-fighting funding, seek help from state and federal law enforcement, and harness our collective anger by calling on citizens to look out for one another.

Do it for those who may now think twice before heading out for a morning walk. Do it for Nathan Trapuzzano.•


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