Indianapolis mayor's crime plan: Prevention, protection, punishment

INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced a multi-step to fight crime with a "holistic" approach.

Ballard said the biggest focus should be on prevention.

"Making Indy a safer city is not just about the number of people arrested and sent to prison. We must have fewer criminals in the first place," he said.

Read: Full text of Mayor Ballard's prepared remarks

The prevention strategy outlined includes increasing preschool scholarships and eligibility, moving the weekend curfew to 11 p.m. for teens 15 to 17, launching a heroin-awareness campaign and expanding "conflict resolution training."

Ballard said the city must also address expulsion and withdrawal of students from school.

"Last year alone, roughly 1,800 students in Indy were expelled from school or dropped out," he said. "We are talking about hundreds of mostly teens who are just cast out into the street, lost to any system, wandering the streets with no skill sets, no jobs -- but they still must eat and survive. And we wonder why we have crime in the neighborhoods."

Ballard said the effort to fight crime starts with preschoolers and making sure at-risk kids have access to quality early childhood education programs.

The mayor's plan calls for investing $25 million over the next five years in those programs across the city. The first year, 1,300 scholarships will be given to preschool-aged children who qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

Ballard again stressed the need for more police officers, a more vigilant public and tougher sentencing for criminals who use guns.

"Criminals use guns to put fear in victims, and it's high time we put the fear in them," Ballard said.

Ballard proposed hiring an average of 72 police officers a year through 2018. With attrition and retirements, the hiring would grow the police department by more than 111 officers in four years.

The Fraternal Order of Police said that by national policing standards, Indianapolis should hire at least 500 more officers. For now, the union said it will settle for the hundred.

"It's time for actions over words. Stop talking about what needs to be done. Somebody step up to the plate, swing the bat and get something done," FOP president Sgt. Bill Owensby said.

Ballard said he will also go back to the legislature in the fall to ask for mandatory 20-year sentences for people convicted of gun crimes.

IMPD Chief Rick Hite called the mayor's plan innovative.

"I don't think anyone anywhere else in the country has captivated all the issues and challenges facing a big city, while recognizing that we can't arrest our way out of the problem," Hite said.

The mayor proposed a bump in the Public Safety Income Tax and elimination of the Local Homestead Tax Credit to pay for the initiatives, estimating that the changes would cost Indianapolis residents an average of $7.16 per month.
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