The City of Indianapolis Monday announced new efforts to fight violent crime, as the city approaches a record number of homicides in 2017. It has been seven years since Indianapolis has had less homicides than the year before.
Mayor Joe Hogsett says he takes full responsibility for the increase during the two years he’s served as mayor.
“It is heart-breaking, it is maddening, it is senselessness, and it is unacceptable,” Hogsett says.
Hogsett says the city will allocate $3 million towards new community engagement efforts, over the next three years.
The money will fund a new position – the Director of Community Violence Reduction. The figure will oversee street-level communication with neighborhood advocates.
It will also pay for the hiring of four “Indy Peacemakers,” advocates from local neighborhoods that will function as credible liaisons between the director and residents.
City leaders behind the plan hope to work around the distrust many residents have towards police, so they’ve shifted some community-based outreach efforts, including these new hires, away from the police department and into the Office of Public Health and Safety.
About one-third of the money is dedicated to funding local community organizations already doing work to end violence. The city says it will get the help of an outside, likely academic group to measure for efficacy among these groups, and use that report to decide how to administer the funds.
“You can’t stop violence behind the desk of a government building,” Hogsett says. “You help neighborhoods by giving them the tools to help themselves.”
All of these funds are not yet guaranteed, but the Mayor’s Office is talking with City-County Council members about making it possible, and says they expect an announcement in the coming week.
The rest of the city’s effort to curb violent crime focuses around hiring more police officers.
A hiring freeze resulted in IMPD losing hundreds of officers in 2013, which the city cites as a significant cause for the increase in homicides.
IMPD Chief Bryan Roach says in response to the understaffed department he helped implement “zone policing,” a system in which officers have a large area to work in.
Roach says now that officer numbers are increasing, IMPD can do more “beat policing,” when officers specialize in small geographical areas. The approach is said to decrease violent crime because officers can be more intimately knowledgeable about the community they serve, gaining trust from residents in the process.
Hogsett says the shift will be crucial as police work to prevent violent crime, not just react to it.
“After years of zone policing, and overworked officers, our neighborhood and faith groups have felt the effects of the decision to roll back community engagement,” Hogsett says.
Neither Hogsett nor Roach have an exact timeline for implementing comprehensive beat policing. But Hogsett says that by the end of 2019, the city will be on track “to take a dangerously undermanned police department and staff it for its mission.”