INDIANAPOLIS — Mayor Joe Hogsett took the pulpit in the Olivet Baptist Church on Indianapolis’ westside Monday morning to tout the success of his administration’s crimefighting strategy in 2022 and highlight anticipated progress in the year ahead.
The occasion was the annual Emancipation Proclamation Service which marked the 160th anniversary of the freedom of enslaved persons in rebellious states during the Civil War.
The service came a day after Hogsett marked the new year by announcing that Indianapolis’ criminal homicide total for 2022 was 212, a significant drop from 2021’s record.
”During that year the rate of deadly violence in Indianapolis has declined by sixteen percent,” the mayor said.
The number of 2022 non-fatal shootings also declined by nearly 14% compared to the year before and while the overall rate of violent crime in Indianapolis has slumped, it is still significantly higher than in 2019 before the COVID pandemic.
Hogsett cites the pandemic’s negative impact on the city’s economic and social progress and his own fight against violent crime as the basis for seeking a third term as mayor this upcoming fall.
The mayor told the combined congregation of church, civic and law enforcement leaders that addressing mental health issues will be among his public safety priorities in the year ahead.
”Part of that includes an emphasis on access to mental health services like a new clinician-led emergency response team to supplant a traditional 911 response.”
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, fresh off his November re-election, attended the service and said the recent ballot victory confirms the voters’ response to his office’s emphasis on community justice which resulted in less focus on minor non-violent crimes and more attempts to help offenders overcome legal obstacles to get their lives back on track.
”We’re really pleased with the homicide numbers this year in terms of our homicide conviction rate in the courtroom but we were only able to do that because of the relationships that we built inside the community,” said Mears. ”I think one of the biggest challenges we have in our community are mental health issues and how can we do a better job of getting the services to the people who need them the most.”
During the General Assembly’s upcoming budget-writing session Mears said its incumbent upon lawmakers to help Marion County resolve many of the statewide issues that disproportionately impact Indianapolis.
”I hear a lot of complaints from the legislature about what goes on in Indianapolis,” he said. “They have an unprecedented surplus and if they truly want to get serious about the issues that are truly affecting Indianapolis that absolutely has to do with the situation that we have with homelessness as well as the challenges we have with individuals who have significant mental health issues, both of those problems can be cured with a six billion dollar surplus.”
Hogsett’s office is awaiting state input and resources to develop a strategy on how best to address the city’s homelessness issue which is quite figuratively at the front door to the Statehouse.
In the meantime, the mayor is leaning heavily on the second annual installment of his three-year $45 million plan to fund anti-violence programs at the community level.
”I’ve seen some of the fruits of some of that,” said Pastor Reginald Fletcher of Living Word Baptist Church on East 21st Street in one of Indianapolis’ most challenging neighborhoods, “but I think one of the things we have to be mindful of is that along with the fruits and the distribution of funding, we also need to be able to challenge accountability, and I think that’s a key in that everybody wants something but not everybody wants to be accountable.”
Mayor Hogsett has promised in the second year of his Elevation Grants program that grant coaching and auditing will be significant factors in managing the city’s community public safety funding.