INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce violent crime statewide.
With a 47-0 vote, the Indiana Senate passed a bipartisan bill Monday that would create a task force to study the issue and provide recommendations on potential changes to state law.
The proposal comes as police departments nationwide continue to deal with higher levels of violent crime than before the pandemic.
“The lack of social services, courts having to hit pause on adjudicating cases,” said Josh Barker, deputy chief of operations for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, on the issues the start of the pandemic caused.
Although some violent crime in Indianapolis has started to decline, Barker said, the numbers are still a concern.
“We have to recognize that progress has been made, but we also have to recognize that there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
And it’s not just large cities like Indianapolis that are seeing the violence.
“We probably have about three shootings a week here,” said Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings.
To turn things around, “it’s going to take funding for people with mental illness,” Cummings said.
“We have a bond schedule now that doesn’t protect innocent citizens,” he added.
Edward Merchant, an attorney and lobbyist for the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, pointed out officers are also seeing drug use play a role.
“That just seems to keep growing,” Merchant said. “It doesn’t seem to be something that is going to go away anytime soon. And that is throughout the state of Indiana.”
Those are some of the issues the proposed task force would study. Along with bail and mental health services, the group would also be tasked with examining homicide reduction and state financial support for local agencies.
The task force would include law enforcement, legislators and officials who work in social services.
“Rather than introducing pieces of legislation that might point the finger at one issue that is contributing to violent crimes in our community, we must address the issue systematically and comprehensively,” said State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis), who is leading efforts on the legislation.
That means looking for solutions beyond law enforcement, Qaddoura added.
“While they may not be in the realm of traditional policing or law enforcement measures, [they] are just as crucial to combating violent crime and reducing those numbers,” IMPD Deputy Chief Barker said.
The proposal now heads to the House for consideration. Under the bill, the task force would need to complete its work and issue a report to the General Assembly by December 2024.