Editorial: Violence is threatening Indy’s future

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Mayor Joe Hogsett and the City-County Council have agreed to spend $166.5 million—mostly money from a federal coronavirus relief package—on anti-violence initiatives officials hope will curb an alarming increase in crime across the city.

The funding comes on top of hefty increases in additional general-fund spending the mayor proposed for public safety.

We commend the moves as well as the specific programs the three-year anti-violence package will fund, including more police officers, new technology and intervention programs.

This new effort to curb violence in the city must be successful—and the mayor and other city officials should work as if there is nothing more important.

Almost every other effort in Indianapolis—be it talent recruitment, economic development, tourism and more—depends on reducing violent crime, in particular the numbing number of shootings that are on pace to shatter records.

A database created by The Indianapolis Star shows that, in 2021, IMPD opened 177 criminal homicide investigations through Sept. 7—the vast majority of them related to gun violence.

That’s 45 more than at the same point in 2020 and 79 more than at the same point in 2019, according to The Star’s numbers. In fact, the 177 homicide investigations so far this year are more than the number for all of 2019.

While shootings and homicides tend to be clustered in a few dangerous neighborhoods, the violence has spilled into other areas as well. Every headline about a shooting downtown—and there have been an alarming number—makes it harder for companies and organizations to justify bringing employees, conventioneers and even diners into the central city.

And at a time when downtown is struggling due to changes in tourism and office use wrought by the pandemic, Indianapolis can’t afford to give residents and visitors more reasons to avoid the city’s core.

We know we are just the latest in a long line of organizations sounding an alarm bell about violence in Indianapolis. And we won’t be the last.

We also know that violent crime is up in many cities. But we care most about what’s happening in this one and what can be done locally to stem the violence. What better calling card could Indianapolis have than being the city that—in the midst of rising violence nationwide—became the safest big city in which to live and work in America.

We don’t pretend to have answers. But we would like to see more business executives take on the cause and join with the city—or if necessary, put pressure on the city—to find ways to solve this problem.

We know it’s possible. When the Religious Freedom Restoration Act threatened the economy and reputation of Indiana in 2015, it was business leaders who stood up and persuaded lawmakers to take at least some action to mitigate the law. And it was business leaders working with the city who fought hard to assure visitors that Indianapolis welcomed all.

It’s time for a similar focus and strategic action to ensure the city as a whole does not fall victim to crime. Our economic future depends on it.•


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8 thoughts on “Editorial: Violence is threatening Indy’s future

  1. Violence is indeed a threat and one more insidious than many believe. While many violent acts occur outside downtown, the perception of unchecked violence will diminish the attractiveness of downtown and central city attractions.

    Safety, education and infrastructure are key elements that can determine the future of the city and central Indiana. Strong support of police and programs to proactively stem violence are critical; the mayor, council, and police should actively focus on both planning and responses for target areas, target populations, and potential hot spots.

    Quality education is indispensable for long-term viability, attractiveness and growth of the city. Few with school age children would select institutions of learning with subpar facilities, mediocre requirements, and lackluster achievement statistics. The bar should be high and measures defined to ensure greater success. One recognizes that schools alone cannot do it all, parents must also be engaged to actively support their children.

    Infrastructure must be improved and maintained in a good state of repair. This means not only roadways and signals, but also housing, neighborhoods, transit, utilities, sidewalks, lighting, and broadband. The current state of these elements in too many sections of Indianapolis is poor. This is not attractive to entice new residents or retain current residents. It need not be so – just look at cities such as Columbus, Denver, Salt Lake, Kansas City that have sound and well maintained and improved central city housing stock. Focus must continue be placed on areas beyond the mile square. A comprehensive rather than reactionary plan should be developed.

  2. Stemming crime is really not as hard as we want to make it. Midnight basketball, lax sentencing, downtown vagrancy free bail, handcuffing the police will only increase crime. That’s what we have now. Repairing broken windows, removing graffiti, active aggressive enforcement of “minor” crimes all reduce violent crime. It has been proven in New York and Indianapolis over the years. Unfortunately the current political environment says violent riots are peaceful protest and more money in social programs is more acceptable to the liberal media. So we have what we have.

    1. Exactly. NYC showed us how to dramatically reduce violence and crime overall 25 years ago. Our current political and business leaders lack either the awareness or the guts to implement measures to do so, primarily because a hugely disproportionate share of our crime is committed by a demographic that is currently treated as above criticism and accountability.

    2. Well, NYPDs broken glass campaign, stop and frisk, and racial profiling – along with turning a blind eye to police violence and corruption for the sake of temporary lower crime rates – is exactly the type of policing that killed George Floyd over a fake 20$. If you want to assign blame to anyone for the chaos unleashed in the summer of 2020 it has to include the many proponents of broken glass – and the police union bosses who used the “war on crime” to protect bad police, and racist police practices.

      Policing as an institution is the bedrock of any civil society. There have to be laws and enforcement to back them up. But, police have to also follow the law and not employ racial profiling, warrantless searches, and extrajudicial killings. If you talk to any NYPD officer who worked a beat between 1990 and 2012, and they are honest with you, they will tell you that shit happened. It may have had a chilling effect on crime in the short term, but it blew up in there face when entire neighborhoods stop showing up to testify in court, providing information to detectives, and general saw the police as a different bad guy they had to avoid.

      We also need to acknowledge that the “war on drugs/crime” led directly to an explosion in incarceration and jail overcrowding. In 2012 the state legislature, after seeing declining revenues from the repeal of the estate tax, decided they needed to cut the state budget. One of the biggest expenses was the booming state jail population so they reformed the state criminal code (This was passed on a bi-partisan vote and signed by Gov. Pence). This, in turn, sent a lot of low level offenders, now with criminal backgrounds and few skills (the State prison system does a horrible job at sending ex offenders back to society with skills and, in some cases, even a place to go) back to county jails or out on community corrections or electronic monitoring. Right now, the Marion County Jail system (with roughly a maximum of 2,700 beds) has a 60 percent turnover every 5 days. Only 2-7% of the original 60% returned in that same period of time. So, no, the broken glass theory of policing system failed in the long term. At this point, we have to do things differently and look at fixing the root causes. There are simply not enough jail and prison beds to “lock everyone up”.

  3. What Donald F. said. I am not optimistic and that is very sad to me. Spending millions will do little to change anything. Efforts must be tried but this problem is very simple and yet the pseudo-intellectuals and bureaucrats think that reading studies and looking at data solves it all. When laws and conditions are created in a society that threatens the very fabric of the human population and attacks the foundations of how we live and interact, which has been ongoing for over 50 years, there is no way to overcome those conditions. The family has always been the basic unit of society where we are taught how to act, where values are taught, encouraged, and reinforced. The government’s policies have been very destructive to the efficacy of the family unit. It really isn’t even hardly recognizable anymore, as it has been redefined to be whatever someone “thinks or feels” it should be. We can spend billions and that will never replace the long-honored and valued model of a loving mother and father working together to raise children in the traditional way. The new politically correct acceptance of whatever goes is not working and we are paying the price of the social experiment that has become the modern family. Hire all of the police, counselors, teachers, administrators, you want but that will not make a real difference as now the conventional wisdom is a preference for management over leadership.