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Hogsett: Indianapolis is ‘extraordinarily safe’ despite rising homicides

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City officials reviewed crime trends through the first half of the year and laid out their vision for public safety moving forward during an hour-long presentation Aug. 5, four days before they’ll present their next budget proposal to the city-county council.

Mayor Joe Hogsett, near the end of the event, said Indianapolis is an “extraordinarily safe city” when considering the city’s population — about 875,000 — versus the number of murders and other violent crime.

What the numbers say

Overall violent crime was down through June 30 compared to last year, as was overall crime of any kind. Aggravated assault saw the biggest dip — from about 2,250 in 2020 to 1,250 this year — and robberies were also down.

There was a 34% increase in criminal homicides through July 30 compared to last year. There has also been a rise in non-fatal shootings, which were up 25%, though that number is lower than it was earlier this year.

Hogsett said multiple times Indianapolis is not alone. Criminal homicides increased nationwide by an estimated 25% in 2020, according to data from the FBI, even though other crimes such as robberies and property crimes decreased.

“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,” Hogsett said.

Where IMPD sees hope

Lauren Rodriguez, director of the Office of Public Health and Safety, highlighted teams of people — not all of whom are associated with the department — who work closely with the community to prevent or interrupt violent crime.

A group called Peacemakers work with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers to identify people most at risk of either committing a violent crime or being a victim and connect them to resources for support.

The Indy Public Safety Foundation funds a program for people, called interrupters, who step in when there are conflicts, whether in person or on social media. Interrupters aren’t formally affiliated with law enforcement. They logged a total of 427 interruptions as of Aug. 4, according to data provided by OPHS.

IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey also spoke highly of the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, which focuses on serial shooters. The unit seized 174 guns and made 163 arrests as of July 28, according to IMPD.

“Any suggestion that our IMPD officers aren’t out there working and doing the best job they can to remove violent criminals from the street is just a false narrative,” Bailey said.

Outside recommendations

The Criminal Justice Lab at New York University’s School of Law, which the city partnered with in 2020, came back with recommendations that included better managing the types of calls IMPD responds to and using a more targeted approach (from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.) to address violent crime. IMPD says it has implemented those recommendations.

The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform recommended working with community and criminal justice partners to tailor interventions to those at the highest risk of violence since its analysis found most victims and suspects had been arrested about eight times on average by the time of the homicide.

The group also recommended IMPD enhance its weekly shooting review meetings — where the department identifies recent shootings that have a likelihood for retaliation — and do a better job of sharing information across multiple units.

Budget implications

Hogsett will likely ask the city-county council for more money for IMPD and public safety in general, but the specifics are unknown. The city has $419 million from the American Rescue Plan, some of which Hogsett has said will go toward policing.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone here that we will be discussing ways that we can better allow IMPD to do their job,” Hogsett said.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Aug. 9.Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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