Public Safety Cuts Could Come Sooner Than Later

Indy's Crime Rate Jumps During Public Safety Budget Crunch

The state of Indianapolis’ public safety budget is having a direct affect on the city’s crime rate, officials said.

With a projected budget deficit of more than $33 million, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office are looking at ways to scale back services.

Meanwhile, the city’s criminal element appears to be taking advantage of the cutbacks, RTV6's Jack Rinehart reported.

The City-County Council held a special meeting Wednesday to hear testimony from both agencies.

Previously, Indianapolis Director of Public Safety Frank Straub warned that IMPD’s funds would be exhausted by the end of March. During Wednesday’s meeting, he said the funds would last until July.

“There’s lack of funds coming in and expenditures (going out). It’s a combination of both,” Straub said.

Marion County Sheriff John Layton said his department has been mindful of its budget.

“We remain frugal at the Sheriff's Office. We cut corners everywhere we can, and we have been doing that for years. There are no frills and there's no fat in this budget," Layton said. "For the last 15 months since I have been sheriff, we're going down a railroad here and we could crash.”

City Controller Jeff Spaulding said making service cuts would be tough, but it’s necessary.

"We're in an environment where revenues are declining. It becomes a discussion of where are you going to reduce appropriations if you don't have the funding to support them,” Spaulding said.

The Sheriff's Department said it could reduce the deficit by millions by refusing to pay medical expenses for inmates and by eliminating deputies who watch over prisoners in Wishard Memorial Hospital’s detention unit.

For the IMPD, it could mean cutting the department's take-home car program, consolidating police roll-call sites and reopening the wage agreement with the rank and file.

Mayoral spokesman Mark Lotter said that the service cuts would follow a lengthy decision-making process.

"I think everything has to be looked at. Everything is on the table. I think it would be too early to tie ourselves into one specific course of action,” Lotter said.

While possible cutbacks in personnel and services take center stage, Indianapolis has suffered a double-digit increase in the crime rate.

Through March 10, violent crime in the city has surged almost 15 percent and property crimes have jumped by more than 13 percent, according to police reports.

Cathy Burton with Marion County Alliance of Neighborhoods said the looming cuts are coming at a bad time.

"As a resident, it's very disturbing. Especially with the crime rate going up and a shortfall in the budget,” Burton said.

Without additional sources of funding, city leaders said service cuts could come as soon as July.

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