The two candidates for Marion County Prosecutor spoke to the public on how they plan to address violent crime, the near-total abortion ban and prosecuting simple possession of marijuana cases, among other topics.
Incumbent Democrat Ryan Mears and Republican Cyndi Carrasco participated in a candidate forum hosted by the North Shadeland Alliance Tuesday night to discuss their campaign goals ahead of the November election. They also emphasized the prosecutor’s relationship with law enforcement and staff turnover.
Mears has worked at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office since 2006. He was a deputy prosecutor when he was appointed Marion County Prosecutor in 2019 after Terry Curry stepped down due to health problems.
Carrasco has been in the legal field for almost 20 years. She formerly worked as the Indiana Inspector General, where she investigated white-collar criminal activity and worked with prosecutors statewide.
Homicide rate, abortion law and relationship with law enforcement among topics discussed
The city’s violent crime rate was a common thread at Tuesday’s forum.
When asked if Indianapolis is facing a public safety crisis, Mears said that homicide rates in the city are trending downward, but the root causes of crime need to be addressed to continue to decrease it.
“What are those root causes? Is it poverty, is it addiction, is it mental health issues?” he said.
Carrasco said she is mostly concerned about repeat offenders committing more crimes, either after taking a plea deal or by paying bail while they await trial.
“We know that we continue through plea deals from the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office to put people back out on our streets,” she said.
The state’s near-total abortion ban that went into effect last week was also a topic of discussion, with the audience cheering in response to the candidates’ responses.
Carrasco said that her top priority as prosecutor would be addressing crime rates, not prosecuting pregnant people and doctors involved in abortions. But, she said, she will still uphold the law.
Mears said he supports the right for pregnant people to choose to have abotions, and that he would not prosecute them or medical providers.
“We as a community need to stand up for women and make sure that we send a clear message to the rest of the legislature in the rest of the state of Indiana, that we love women, we respect women and we're going to protect their rights,” he said.
Mears also said that he would continue to not prosecute simple possession of marijuana cases, a decision he made in 2019. Mears said that the law disproportionately impacts people of color, and is a waste of money and resources for the department.
Carrasco said prosecutors should not make blanket statements, and it is their duty to enforce the law.
Another issue in the race for weeks is the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police taking a “no-confidence” vote on the prosecutor's office and Marion County courts. When asked about the vote, Mears said that the FOP and the court system need to be independent, as the FOP defends officers who have been accused of crimes.
Carrasco, the FOP-endorsed candidate, said it is essential that the two organizations, as well as other law enforcement agencies, have a strong relationship with the prosecutor’s office.
“So long as there remains a fracture between the prosecutor's office and law enforcement, we are going to continue to see the violence increase in our city,” Carrasco said.
Mears did not seek the FOP enforcement, citing that the prosecutor should be independent.
The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 11. Election day is Nov. 8.