INDIANAPOLIS - After Indianapolis saw a particularly violent year in 2013, city and police officials are backing a proposal to significantly toughen sentencing laws for people who use firearms to commit crimes.
A bill authored by Indiana State Senator James Merritt (R-Indianapolis) would allow courts to tack an additional five years onto mandatory minimum sentences for anyone who used a firearm to commit burglary or a felony offense.
That bill, Senate Bill 226, was introduced on Jan. 7 and has only begun to wind its way through the legislative process.
In the meantime, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and IMPD Chief Rick Hite are saying violent criminals aren't spending enough time in prison. They point to recent cases as proof:
Shamus Patton, who received an eight-year prison sentence for shooting nine people during Black Expo, served only two years and eight months in prison.
Alexander Dupree, sentenced to 16-years for armed robbery, criminal confinement and a handgun violation, served just two years and two months in prison.
Late last month, Dupree and 10 others were arrested for two violent home break-ins in which police said the victims were raped, robbed and confined for hours.
Riggs said the Patton and Dupree serve as textbook examples of the city's high crime rate and the need for mandatory minimum sentences.
"Individuals that spend very little time in prison – and they were sentenced to a much longer time in prison – I think that's a travesty," Riggs said. "And as a result, people are dying in Indianapolis."
Over the past two years, metro police have investigated 759 non-fatal shootings. Furthermore, police said that 55 percent of the victims refused to cooperate with the investigation, telling police they would take care of it themselves.
But State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), Merritt's counterpoint on the northwest side of the city, isn't convinced increased mandatory minimum sentences will solve the problem.
"Supposedly, this is supposed to be some remedy to the issue we're having in Marion County," Taylor said. "Although it's good to have the law, I don't think these people that are committing these crimes care what their time in prison is going to be like."
Senate Bill 226 had a first reading Jan. 9 by the Indiana Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.