Indianapolis City-County councilors ignore requests for comment on violence

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INDIANAPOLIS– There have been 16 homicides in Indianapolis since Aug. 29 and at least two dozen shootings and knifings from one end of Marion County to the other.

In the last two weeks, IMPD officers have shot at least two people who they say were aiming guns at them and this morning someone fired at an officer investigating possible car break-ins at 25th Street and Post Road.

Saturday night in Broad Ripple a man said one or maybe two people shot into his car 17 times.

Children have been wounded, a 17-year-old was murdered outside his house on Randolph Street Monday afternoon and the week before a 16-year-old shot his cousin who was attacking his aunt in what detectives determined will be most likely ruled a “defense of third person” homicide.

CBS4 reached out to nearly a dozen city county councilors to gauge their reactions to the violence in their district and seek on-camera interviews.

Most did not respond to our request.

Others did with varying degrees of access.

Council Vice President Zach Adamson granted FOX 59 News a telephone interview though he was unable to appear on camera in time to be included in the story that aired at 5:30 pm Tuesday.

Adamson, in whose district where the teenager was killed Monday afternoon, told FOX59 that there has been what he viewed as a “breakdown of order” in the city, where there is “no enforcement” of minor neighborhood issues that eventually explode into larger confrontations and violence and that IMPD needs “more officers” to better patrol “hot spots” where violence is occurring and that he endorses Mayor Hogsett’s and IMPD’s proposals to boost spending in the coming year to hire and train more officers.

Councilor Duke Oliver, who represents the district where a woman was found shot to death at a gas station at 34th Street and Sherman Drive a week ago, said he had a plan to reduce violence but was not prepared to share it at this time.

Council President Vop Osili and Public Safety Committee Chairman did not respond to interview requests but issued a joint statement that read:

“Over the past year, it seems nearly every holiday weekend in Indianapolis has been followed by a grim count of lives lost to violence. Days that should be marked by happy family gatherings are instead marked by loved ones gathering in grief and disbelief.  While the rest of us struggle to imagine their feelings of shock, sorrow, and loss, let us support the families forever changed by the violence of this weekend’s shootings, and every member of this community touched by violence. Let us also remember the first responders who continue to put their lives on the line and face the grim aftermath of violence in a way most of us will never have to.  

 “There are no easy answers and no immediate solutions. While law enforcement and the justice system are crucial elements in the fight against violence, we cannot arrest, prosecute, or incarcerate our way out of this problem. That is precisely why the City is investing in violence prevention at the grassroots level through its District Crime Prevention Grants program, along with other neighborhood-based, equity-driven initiatives to support people of every race and in every place in Indianapolis as we work together to address the root causes of this violence and crime. Even the most difficult days will not deter us in this fight.”  

The only councilor who would consent to an on-camera interview was Michael-Paul Hart, a republican who represents the south east side district where a man was murdered on South Pasadena Street Monday night.

“We’re always gonna have random acts of violence and that’s a certainty and we’re not gonna change that,” said Hart. “Government isn’t gonna solve any problems here. We have to look at our communities to start solving problems.”

This past spring councilors made recommendations on how to divvy up $625,000 in district anti-violence grants, with another $625,000 on the table early next year.

Hart said his district received $25,000, which he combined with grants awarded to a neighboring district, to focus on leadership training at the community level.

“Leadership can be as simple as understanding your block, being a block captain. It can be being part of a crime watch organization,” he said. “Leadership is knowing your community and how to build your community better. Knowing your neighbor and understanding your neighbor, making sure you are going and talking to the people around you while understanding the challenges in your neighborhood and coming up with solutions to make your neighborhood better.”

Hart said future grant recommendations will focus on mental health spending for young adults while bigger citywide systemic solutions are needed to tackle Indianapolis’ overall crime problem.

“On the short term what the City can do is focus on their judicial, law enforcement, and prosecutors all start working in the same sandbox,” he said, “because right now we’ve got a lot of bad people coming out of the system way too easily.”

CBS4 has recently reported on cases of offenders released on relatively low bonds committing additional crimes or reoffending while on court-ordered GPS monitoring while awaiting trial or serving a community sentence.

Since coming into office on January 1, 2016, Mayor Hogsett has dedicated $16.3 million to community anti-violence grants spending.

In the upcoming 2022 budget, Hogsett is boosting that figure to $15 million per year for the next three years.

Hart said key to the city’s approach to stopping violence at the community level is accounting for the money that has been spent and will be allocated in the future.

“Over the last year-and-a-half that I’ve been a council member, something I’ve noticed is we make appropriations to reduce violent crime in certain initiatives through the Office of Public Health and Safety and the police department, but we never see the results of those dollars. We spend the money but there’s no follow up,” he said. “Our Office of Performance and Audit needs to be scrutinizing our agencies more and saying, ‘We appropriated these dollars, did we get the result we were looking for with those dollars?’”

Michael-Paul Hart

The mayor’s office insists that the Central Indiana Community Foundation, its administrator of grants funding, will oversee the spending and work closely with the community organizations in receipt of the city funds.

When asked about the spasm of violence that rocked Indianapolis on Labor Day, a spokesman for Hogsett issued this statement:

“The gun violence experienced by our community today is heartbreaking and unacceptable. That’s why Mayor Hogsett has introduced a $150-million anti-violence plan that will invest in our law enforcement officers, giving them the tools and resources they need to hold perpetrators of violence responsible, while also directing unprecedented resources into addressing the root causes of violent crime and the community-based groups working to stop this destructive cycle. It will take all of us to address the scourge of gun violence and create a safer community for all who call Indianapolis home.”

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