INDIANAPOLIS — After some acrimonious feedback from opponents, the City-County Council voted Monday night to approve $3.3 million in additional anti-violence spending with nearly half going to IMPD and the remainder to undetermined community groups.
Republicans on the council, and some community members, while applauding long-term planning, wonder what’s being done this summer to stem the city’s record homicide pace.
Anthoney Hampton is spending his Friday nights watching young people play basketball in Indy Parks.
“Summer’s high-murder months, and we just want to keep them out of the way on Friday, a high-murder night to pour into them,” said Hampton, who oversees the Safe Summer Friday Night Basketball League at Bethel Park. “150-plus young men, what they call at-risk youth, all socializing, get mentoring and love, no violent episodes, no police runs, no one who has been playing basketball has been murdered.”
Hampton said youngsters from across the city have come to play basketball on neutral turf.
“West side, Haughville, Boulevard, all the way to Post Road and everywhere in between, we bring all these kids with 12 different mentors together,” he said. “I personally know of a situation where siblings may have had something to do with the death of another sibling, and you see the interactions at first, and then you watch the relationships develop throughout the summer. It’s all been positive.”
It’s likely some of those same young people, when not filling the Bethel Park gym, have been outside in the swimming pool with Lurenzo Johnson of KID, Inc., who has hosted more than 300 youngsters and their families this summer.
“Well, just up here, besides paying for them to go swimming, we just kind of feed them hot dogs and hamburgers, we feed them little snacks like that because you burn up a lot of energy in that pool,” he said, noting that parents and grandparents and smaller brothers and sisters often tag along. “We want to get that family atmosphere.”
It was not a family atmosphere when opponents shouted down council members before leaving the council chambers Monday night, calling for more money to be eliminated from IMPD’s budget and increased spending on community issues.
Republican Michael-Paul Hart cited the need for more accountability in public safety spending.
“We’ve spent a lot more money. I’m saying the dollars we are spending, we’re not getting value for those numbers. That’s the problem. We can spend the money, but let’s get something for it.”
Democrat La Keisha Jackson, who represents the eastside, said she understands the call for more community spending, but said Indianapolis’ battle against crime needs to be funded like the voters’ decision to tax themselves to improve public transit.
“It’s not enough money on the law enforcement end, and it’s not enough money for the community, human side,” she said. “Just like we did for IndyGo, and we had to have a referendum. Y’all don’t have to look at me. We gonna have to make a decision at some point.
“I did the math. If we (each) pay about $46 a year, that would be about $34 million a year. That could take us a whole long way.”
Responding to a suggestion earlier in the day by the Fraternal Order of Police, Republicans failed in their attempt to add an amendment to the spending plan that would endorse the purchase of gunshot spotter technology for Indianapolis.
“That’s great technology, but that’s not cheap,” said IMPD Chief Randal Taylor, “and I think that in all honesty as we look out at what is coming down the pike, I think there are some other products that are coming out that will be just as good if not better for Indianapolis and might do for it cheaper.
“If we get something that will allow us to be more flexible, agile and mobile, then I think that’s what we would like to look at.”
Taylor said IMPD will use its share of the council’s allocation to invest in more intelligence and data technology and the staff to access it.
“The data we’re gonna be able to mine now will be more specific, even into blocks, and even into particular homes,” he said. “By being more laser focused on those things, we can concentrate our efforts even more on those areas.”
Even though the city is on yet another record annual homicide pace, Taylor said the Enhanced Community Safety Initiative this summer is paying public safety dividends.
“They’ve done some great work with getting guns off the street, making some great arrests. They’ve been working along with the Crime Gun Intelligence Center to make some things happen.”
Taylor said he expects to have updated statistics soon to bolster his claim that IMPD’s change in tactics has resulted in enhanced safety.