Mayor, Curry disagree about ‘cyclical’ murder rate

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 4, 2015) — Mayor Greg Ballard told viewers last month that the city’s murder rate, which was on its way to an eight percent increase over 2013 and finished with 135 cases, was due to the ebb-and-flow of crime.

“It’s cyclical. Frankly I didn’t get a lot of these questions when it was below 100 for four years in a row, right?”

The man whose job it is to send convicted killers to prison told us that Mayor Ballard is wrong for several reasons.

“There is a certain starting point of poverty, lack of education and then individuals, young people in particular, who are getting into the cycle of violence and I don’t agree that it’s necessarily cyclical,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. “I think there are circumstances that are driving it and as a consequence it’s not something that’s fixable in the short term.”

Veteran investigators said several factors, including the proliferation of both guns and heroin on the streets of Indianapolis, the presence of out-of-town drug dealers and the disturbing trend of multiple-victim homicides have driven the city’s murder rate to double digit increases compared to 2012.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the trend is something other than cyclical,” said Curry.  “I think it’s a function of a number of factors that are present in our community.”

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said that a change in mandated sentencing guidelines would curb the bloodshed in Indianapolis.

“One of our goals is going to be to see how we can reduce the amount of homicides by working with the statehouse on mandatory minimum sentencing,” he said. “You have to realize your police department is doing a great job of arresting people only to have to re-arrest them until they commit a homicide. Ninety-two percent of all of our homicide suspects have a criminal past. Eighty-three percent of our homicide victims have a criminal past.”

Riggs agreed with Curry that an enhanced computer tracking system will allow police and prosecutors to do a better job of tracking defendants, suspects and victims and those with a history of crime.

“Best case scenario is we are tracking people coming back from prison, that the five to 8,000 people that are coming back that we’re tracking them, that we’re holding people accountable when they break the law. That we have mandatory minimum sentencing that could reduce our homicide rate by 20 to 25 percent.”

In the coming year Curry said he expects to receive additional funding from the City County Council as a result of a recently enacted public safety tax hike that will, for the first time, allow him to fully staff is office by adding 15 employees.

The prosecutor expects to beef up his office’s handling of domestic violence cases as well as investigations into guns, gangs and drugs.

Curry is also preparing for the June trial of the first Richmond Hill defendant, Mark Leonard, during what is expected to be a month-long trial in South Bend.

“In the Richmond Hill case…the expert testimony will be from IFD, from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Curry said the last high profile out-of-town trial prosecuted by his staff, was the David Bisard case which moved to Fort Wayne and cost the prosecutor approximately $60,000.

“We were able to cover that in our existing budget and didn’t have to ask for extra appropriation. If we have to do that in the Richmond Hill case, we will, and I’m sure the council will come through.”

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