August 5, 2021

Public Safety Leaders Say Better Data, Focus On Mental Health Are Key to Reducing Violence

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Indianapolis public safety officials gave an update Thursday on efforts to decrease violent crime. The presentation was ahead of next week’s city budget announcement.

Next Monday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett will unveil his 2022 city budget recommendations, which he has said will emphasize public safety. Hogsett, along with police leaders and Director of the Office of Public Health and Safety Lauren Rodriguez spoke at a press conference about ongoing crime reduction efforts.

Criminal homicides in Indianapolis are up 34 percent  this year compared to last year, with about 160 people killed so far this year. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said criminal homicides have been trending upward for the past decade.

“It’s a disturbing trend, an unacceptable number that's impacted our community from the northside to the southside and east and west,” he said.

Hogsett said the increased crime is not a unique problem to Indianapolis.

“The fact that large cities all across the country are experiencing the exact same thing indicates to me that the scope of the problem goes beyond our borders and goes beyond our regular funding,” Hogsett said.

The city has also employed federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to try and curb the violence problem. Bailey said he hopes more funding will be secured to train officers more on de-escalation, crisis intervention and use of force.

IMPD shared data on crime reduction efforts, including work to seize guns that are possessed illegally. So far this year, more than 500 firearms have been seized, Bailey said.

Looking forward, Bailey said IMPD is working to improve its data collection. Earlier this summer, more than $3 million in public safety investments were approved by the City-County Council, including funds to improve IMPD technology and hire a chief data officer. Investments were also allocated toward community resources with a focus on mental health. 

Additionally, the county’s new criminal justice campus is scheduled to open by the end of the year, Hogsett said.

“I am especially optimistic about the impact a dedicated facility for holistic criminal justice will have on our community, especially one with a focus on treatment, over incarceration, for nonviolent offenders with mental health and substance use issues,” he said.

Rodriguez said the Assessment Intervention Center within the new criminal justice campus has been open since December, and has so far had 1,061 encounters with individuals experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues.

Contact WFYI criminal justice reporter Katrina Pross at kpross@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @katrina_pross.

Pross is a Corps Member of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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