Former deputy mayor calls for action now after violent Wednesday night in Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Circle City is on pace to surpass the number of homicides from the previous two years. Community advocates welcome long-term reform yet they question the city’s plan to address the increase in crime right now.

“We use to always say one homicide is too many homicides in our great city,” said Olgen Williams, the deputy mayor for the Ballard administration.

Williams lives down the street from where a 23-year-old man was shot and killed nearly a month ago.

It is one of 100 homicides so far in 2020. In 2017, Indy hit 100 homicides on August 24; in 2018, the city hit 100 homicides on August 11; and in 2019, Indianapolis reached 100 homicides on September 12.

“Evidently, we need to do more,” said Williams. “And what’s enough is a good question.”

Williams believes the city needs to give more resources to groups who focus on specific zip codes.

“People that actually live in the neighborhood, zip code people,” he said. “Bring them to the table with police, resources.”

It’s a method Williams said worked when he tried it in his own neighborhood of Haughville. With help from clergy, police and community leaders, he said they brought down crime by 70 percent.

“Maybe we need more workers in the neighborhood to do a better job,” he said.

FOX59 requested an interview with Mayor Hogsett on Wednesday. In the past, he has said he wants to be known as the public safety mayor.

His office never acknowledged our request for the mayor on Wednesday before our story aired. Instead, they offered an interview with the city’s Director of Community Violence Reduction, Shonna Majors.

On Wednesday evening after our story aired, a spokesperson told us an interview was not likely to fit into the mayor’s schedule and that is why she connected us with Majors who is tasked with overseeing violence.

“We have studied, we have brought experts in from outside the city,” said Majors. “We are doing everything we can possibly do with the resources we have to do it.”

Majors said William’s vision of a focus on specific zip codes is one of her goals. She said a new grant will provide funding to groups in areas with the highest rate of homicides.

The Office of Public Health and Safety offers a grant program that invests $300,000 a year in evidence-based violence prevention services offered by grassroots organizations in Indianapolis neighborhoods. The application deadline for the grant program is June 30.

“Instead of trying to embrace the entire city we are now wanting to laser focus in on our more higher priority neighborhoods to flood those areas with those resources,” she said.

Over the last four years, the city says it has doubled the amount of money they are investing in community-based violence reduction efforts to nearly $4 million. This includes the $3 million Community Crime Prevention Grant program administered by the Indianapolis Foundation – which has seen a $1 million increase in funding over the last four years. Including the Office of Public Health and Safety’s $300,000 grant, the city says it represents the largest investment in neighborhood-based anti-crime efforts in more than a decade.

Indianapolis recorded a dip in homicides last year for the first time in nearly a decade. The city saw 171 homicides in 2019 in comparison to 178 in 2018.

Majors said she does not expect a huge decrease for possibly a few more years.

Now that the state is lifting restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic Majors explained her team can safely get back into the community.

Community members like Williams hope the city allocates the grant money wisely so more lives are not lost.

“You have to give them the chance to do what they want to do without throwing crumbs,” Williams said. “You have to give them the whole loaf sometimes.”

Majors explained the city hired a consultant from Oakland to help Indianapolis reduce violence. She said that city was successful at doing that. They will hold a training with her staff and community-based organizations Thursday afternoon.

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