Mayor Joe Hogsett announced three new initiatives to reduce gun violence in the city while calling on state, local and federal officials to help implement them on Thursday. The city announced major initiatives to continue to address gun violence in Indianapolis, but one initiative is dependent on a change in state law.
The initiatives will increase IMPD officers’ salaries, add new city criminal attorneys, increase funding for grassroot organizations and create gun safety measures in Indianapolis.
In 2022, the city launched a three-year anti-crime strategy and saw a 16% reduction in murders in the first year. Hogsett said this year’s numbers have decreased as well, and the city is seeing more “encouraging signs of success”; however, more can and should be done to address crime in Indianapolis, he said.
“I am calling on my partners at the local, state and federal levels to join us in implementing these significant changes that will reduce gun crime in our city,” Hogsett said.
The city’s new initiatives include:
- Introducing a proposed ordinance through the City County Council to ban the sale of military-style weapons, per federal definitions, raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, and end permitless carry and concealed carry of handguns in Marion County, an ordinance which would only be enforceable under a change in state law
- Increase new IMPD officers’ salaries
- Hold “problem properties” accountable for repeated gun issues
- Add three new city criminal attorneys to bring federal charges for gun crimes
- Work toward creating gun-free zones when requested by private event holders on public property
- Award more than $15 million in new grants for neighborhood organizations working to reduce violence
- Launch new “I Choose Peace” campaign
CALLS FOR A CHANGE IN STATE LAW
Hogsett called on the state to help implement a part of the city’s gun safety strategy by overturning the state’s preemption statute that prohibits local governments from regulating firearms, ammunition, firearm accessories and more.
“I will continue to fight for the people of Indianapolis to have the right to craft their own laws on this critical issue,” Hogsett said.
While state law preempts the city from establishing gun restrictions, Hogsett emphasized the importance of sending a message to the legislature that Indianapolis requires common-sense gun laws to curb gun violence. Hogsett’s plan would include submitting a gun safety measures package to the City-County Council that is conditional on a change in state law.
The ordinance does not create immediate change but would allow local officials to immediately begin enforcing gun safety measures should state lawmakers overturn the preemption statute.
The package would include the following:
- A complete ban on the sale of military-style guns
- Raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from age 18 to 21
- End permitless carry and concealed carry of handguns in Marion County
The ordinance will be introduced at the next full meeting of the City-County Council on June 5. If passed, the ordinances would be enforced through monetary fines.
“Although these common-sense measures will be on the books, they will not have the force of law until the General Assembly takes the long-overdue step to withdraw its local preemption on Indianapolis residents creating their own laws,” Hogsett said. “I call on all those who believe in a strong local government to join me in advocating for this change.”
NEXT STEPS ON ADDRESSING GUN VIOLENCE
The city’s prosecutor’s office and the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services will enact policies to penalize property owners with constant gun issues under the state’s Nuisance Law, Hogsett also announced. The city’s goal is to hold businesses with repeated gun issues liable for “maintaining a threat to the public’s safety,” Hogsett said.
“If you’re a bar, entertainment venue or other business that currently maintains one of these problem properties, know that we will no longer tolerate you forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for your irresponsible business practices,” Hogsett said.
Per state law, the city cannot dictate gun-free zones and has no intention to currently do so, they said, but wants to help support those who do after neighborhood organizations and businesses expressed frustrations.
As a part of the initiative, Hogsett also announced that private businesses and community organizations can request city assistance in creating gun-free zones for events held on public property, Hogsett said.
“For business or community organizations that are regularly hosting large-scale events in public spaces and wish to make them safer by ensuring that public spaces are gun free, we will support their decision to create these gun-free zones and provide additional law enforcement resources to help make that goal a reality,” Hogsett said.
STRENGTHENING LAW ENFORCEMENT
Another expansion of the city’s crime reduction strategy will boost new IMPD officers’ salaries to increase retention rates, Hogsett announced.
Last year’s budget increased the first- and second-year officer’s salary from $39,000 to $62,000 and offered a $10,000 sign-on bonus. The city plans to add that sign-on bonus to new salaries and offer up to $2,500 retention bonuses at the end of the year to reward officers for their continued service.
First-year officers’ salaries will increase to $71,829, and second-year officers’ salaries will increase to $75,000. In eight years, the city has increased recruitment pay by 85%, making them now the highest paid recruits in the Midwest.
“These investments, coupled with new resources to help the Marion County Sheriff’s Office hire and retain deputies at the Community Justice Campus, will send a clear message: In Indianapolis, we support those who protect and serve,” Hogsett said.
Three attorneys will be hired in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to identify, investigate and federally prosecute perpetrators of gun violence in Marion County. The attorneys will have the same resources and power as federal attorneys but will be paid for and report to the city.
“Through this unprecedented partnership, we will bring a halt to the efforts of trigger-pullers who seek to use our local criminal justice system as a mere revolving door, strengthen the tools available to our local police, and help make the streets safer for our officers and residents alike,” Hogsett said.
The new partnership is similar to an initiative the Baltimore Police Department announced in 2019.
NEW FUNDS FOR GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATIONS
The city will work with the Indianapolis Foundation to award more than $15 million in new Elevation Grants to neighborhood organizations working to reduce violence, Hogsett announced. The city will also deploy over $5 million in mental health funding, including the city’s new Clinician-Led Crisis Response Team, the creation of new permanent supportive housing units and an increase to the number of beds available at the Assessment and Intervention Center.
Last year, the city announced millions in new funding for social services led by community members and hired 50 peacemakers to expand the city’s Elevation Grant Program. In 2022, organizations engaged in nearly 700 interactions, with nearly one-third of those situations involving guns, and have referred almost 1,400 people for resources.
Nonprofits, such as Outreach Inc., have taken advantage of the city’s grant funding by engaging more than 450 youth and young adults through their services program, resulting in more than 80% avoiding recidivism during the grant period, Hogsett said.
The city’s Grocery Access Program also provided more than twenty thousand rides to families last year and nearly 9,000 through April of this year, Hogsett said.
EXPANSION OF CITY PROGRAMMING
In the coming weeks, the city will join the Indy Public Safety Foundation to launch a new initiative that will place youth in programming over summer break, Hogsett said. Students will be able to participate in boxing, barbering, cooking classes and more through the Summer in the City Program.
Hogsett also unveiled a new community pledge with the Indy Public Safety Foundation to provide an outlet for neighbors, organizations and businesses to share why they choose to reject violence and promote peace.
“I would challenge each and every resident to root out that love, withheld and restrained,” Hogsett said. “Love for Indianapolis, love for our friends and neighbors and family, love for those lost to this violence, and love for those that remain; and love for ourselves.”
Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or by email JaydenK@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.