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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Hogsett: All-hands-on-deck effort to improve Indianapolis

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The city of Indianapolis is putting more investment toward public safety than ever before. It’s not hard to guess why. Despite a decline in overall crime, we continue to suffer the effects of a nationwide spike in homicides. While there are many causes, the incredible stress and strain brought on by the ongoing pandemic is certainly a factor.

That’s why on Aug. 9, I stood before the city-county council and presented a sweeping three-year anti-violence plan with more than $150 million of investment. This massive deployment of funding includes American Rescue Plan dollars and will focus on the safety of our community.

It will do this in three ways: 1) by investing in grassroots organizations; 2) by addressing the root causes of crime; and 3) by increasing staffing and technology updates for police.

The largest piece is funding for grassroots violence prevention. As I have said in the past, nobody knows a neighborhood like the neighbors themselves. That’s why this plan will invest $15 million every year, for the next three years, into the neighborhood groups already working to reduce violence in our community. I also proposed to add additional resources to combat the threat of domestic violence, which has also grown during the pandemic.
As part of an investment into grassroots organizations, this fiscal plan will significantly expand what is known as group violence intervention. This nationally and locally proven method to reduce homicides connects community members with at-risk individuals to help put them on a better path to a brighter future. This approach has dramatically lowered homicides in the past in our city. I know it can work again.

The second part of our three-year plan is focused on the root causes of crime. For starters, too many residents lack access to mental health resources. With residents facing so many challenges in these difficult times, that must change. This proposal utilizes $30 million to build up mental health resources in our schools and our juvenile centers, while also growing a more diverse pool of therapists who can serve a diverse city.

But mental health is just one of a variety of root causes we seek to address. We will also expand our investment in services for ex-offenders ($5.5 million), workforce development ($5 million), and hunger relief ($6 million). Focusing on what drives violence to begin with can stop it before it starts.

The third piece of our three-year public safety strategy invests in resources for law enforcement. This includes funding for 100 new police officers expressly dedicated to community patrols, as well as a civilian team that works on non-emergencies, freeing up existing officers to focus on violent crime. And it includes a $9 million package for modern policing technology, which will be introduced after conversations and input with the community.

This three-year proposal follows in the footsteps of earlier investments — things like equipping IMPD patrol officers with body-worn cameras, among other reforms; or the establishment of Mobile Crisis Assistance Teams to better respond to residents suffering from addiction or mental health crises; or even the opening of the Assessment and Intervention Center, a new facility designed to direct those same individuals toward treatment, rather than jail.

But it hasn’t been enough. That is why this three-year proposal is so broad, using every resource we have into meeting the challenge of this era.

However, the Mayor’s Office, IMPD and the city-county council cannot do it without you.

Neighbors, faith leaders, business owners, teachers, students — we all have a part to play in reducing violence. That can be anything from volunteering your time, to donating to anti-violence organizations, to hiring ex-offenders at your business. Even getting our COVID-19 vaccine can help ease the stress in neighborhoods that are experiencing more violence due to the pandemic.

No matter what role you play, though, know that you are part of a larger effort that is dynamic, comprehensive and better funded than ever before.

Joe Hogsett is mayor of Indianapolis.

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