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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