INDIANAPOLIS– Leaders of the City of Peace Coalition spent 90 minutes at the mayoral conference room table on the 25th floor of the City-County Building meeting with Mayor Joe Hogsett regarding their six recommendations for gaining control of violent crime in Indianapolis.
That they spent so long at the table was a surprise to the five coalition members.
What wasn’t a surprise is that they said the mayor won’t commit to their number one recommendation to bring peace to the streets: the naming of a public safety director to take over the role Hogsett assigned himself when he was sworn in as the self-proclaimed “Public Safety Mayor” in 2016.
“We looked at the recommendations,” said Aaron Williams after the meeting. “The first one which is the implementation of a public safety director has been put on hold and paused at this time. The mayor just felt like things are moving smoothly with his administration and how they’re handling public safety and there’s no need to add another layer of bureaucracy.”
As of last Thursday, July 30, Indianapolis had recorded 131 homicides.
On that same date a year ago, the city’s homicide total stood at 81 on its way to challenging a new annual murder record.
“We felt like this model has worked in the past,” said Williams. “Obviously with this mayor and his administration they’re approaching it with a different manner and a different methodology. He didn’t completely rule it out so we’re very optimistic about the future about having a public safety director but the mayor felt like at this time there was no need.”
The Coalition leadership that met with Hogsett included Olgen Williams, former Deputy Mayor under the previous administration of Mayor Greg Ballard.
“I can’t tell you what the mayor feels, but I can tell you he has a sense of guilt and remorse about the high amount of violence and particularly the homicides we’re seeing in our city. We’re on a pace to have over 200-220 homicides which would set a record for what this city has seen and he signed up for this job is what he emphatically told us,” said Williams.
The coalition is jockeying for position among several other groups and individuals who are trying to win city support and funding for their own programs to combat violence in Indianapolis.
“When the mayor says it publicly that we’re gonna work with one group that will umbrella all groups, then that carries weight with his authority and power in this city,” said Rev. Douglas Tate. “We’ve never been here before with this many murders in our city at this time. So this group is the same as any other group but we’re just saying at this point talking to the mayor and trying to invite other groups to come in so hopefully that will be the turning point, that will be the light bulb going off to make everyone come together and say, ‘We gotta make this time different from all the other groups.’”
The Coalition leaders said they had more success in convincing the mayor and IMPD Chief Randy Taylor to support their proposals to send volunteers into crime hot spots in the city to help quell violence, fund a Peace in the Streets marketing campaign and provide better coordination between community groups.
“We’re counting on the mayor more than anything as the leader of this city to come in good faith to these organizations and to the table with us and say, ‘Hey, here’s a group that we endorse, we support,’” said Williams. “Imagine if we took the top ten zip codes in Indianapolis and were able to deploy our street outreach workers, we were able to have collaborations and partnerships with the community and neighborhood groups, we could see our overall crime and homicides reduced by fifty percent.
“I think there’s a lot of duplications of efforts going on, and one thing we kind of challenged the mayor is, ‘As the leader the city, why don’t you bring these groups together and make sure that we can work together?’” said Williams, “and his touch or feel for the streets will be magnified and amplified because he’ll be hearing it consistently, and that’s what’s happening now.”
CBS4 reached out to the mayor’s office for comment.