Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett says his city is heading toward a new homicide record for the third consecutive year and outlined how the city could reverse that trend in 2018, reports the Indianapolis Star. Hogsett took the blame for the perpetual rise in homicides during a passionate speech in which he lingered on words such as “heartbreaking,” “maddening” and “unacceptable.” He said, “The residents of the city deserve an answer to a simple question: What am I going to do about it?”
Hogsett offered several answers, including renewing his pledge to combat violence with improved police staffing and strategies. He also announced a new infusion of $1 million for neighborhood outreach. The speech sets up a pivotal third year for a Democratic mayor who campaigned on reducing crime. Indianapolis has recorded 148 homicides this year, one away from last’s year record high. Hogsett and Police Chief Bryan Roach cited a hiring freeze that by 2013 bottomed out staffing at 1,535 officers. Hogsett, who has made police staffing a priority in his otherwise lean budgets, projects staffing will rise to 1,743 officers by the end of 2019. “We are on track to have done what we set out to do: take a chronically and dangerously undermanned police department and staff it appropriately for its mission,” Hogsett said. New hires have enabled the department to transition from policing large geographic zones to foot patrols on narrow beats, a public safety priority of Hogsett. The city has moved slowly, creating 19 beats. Roach said the areas served by officers on those beats have seen declines in homicides, from 48 last year to 34 so far this year, and a reduction of non-fatal shootings from 114 to 103.