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INDIANAPOLIS — The candidates for mayor of Indianapolis went head-to-head in a debate last night. 

Incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett and his Republican challenger Jim Merritt spoke on a variety of topics at Arsenal Tech High School downtown. Both candidates touched on Indy’s growing problem with violence, especially when it comes to how many homicide victims are African-American. 

“Community violence is job number one for the Mayor of Indianapolis. It’s almost like we have an epidemic of murder,” said Merrit. “We need to create an Indianapolis commission on the social status of African-American males. It’s been successful on the state level.”

Merritt also pushed again for the re-creation of the position of Public Safety Director as well as the installation of Bill Benjamin as chief of police. Merritt also pointed to his recent experiences of not seeing “a single police officer” in the Mile Square area downtown near where a teenager was shot just last weekend.

“Senator I simply say that on Mile Square on an evening you described, there are at least 40 officers in that area at any particular time, so you’re just not looking in the right places,” Hogsett responded.

“Homicides have gone up, unfortunately, every year in Indianapolis since 2012, but it’s not simply something that started happening three years ago,” he added. “Overall, we have seen violent crime reduced in Marion County in 2018 and thus far in 2019.”

They also outlined ways for young African-Americans to get a better education in Indianapolis, whether it is through I-P-S or charter schools. Both candidates were also asked how they would help lower the unemployment rate among African-Americans who live in Indianapolis.

“Right now only 8-percent of contracts the city gives out every year are available to minority businesses,” Merritt said. “The ordinance says that has to be at least 15-percent. So what’s going on? We have to allow these individuals who want to be a contractor to have access and knowledge of the grants from the federal and state governments.”

“I’m excited for our new ‘Inclusive Growth Strategy’ for the next year,” said Hogsett. “It creates a framework to help all businesses grow, but focus on quality of jobs as well as the quantity of jobs.”

Both candidates will face off in one more debate next Monday before Election Day, which is November 5th.