INDIANAPOLIS–The buck stops with the mayor, said Indy Mayor Joe Hogsett, Wednesday. Hogsett, a Democrat seeking a second term, said he believes in his police chief and in what his administration has been doing to reduce violent crime.
“The level of gun violence that Indianapolis has experienced, and frankly most other urban areas throughout the country has experienced, is unacceptable and unprecedented,” he said in an interview with WIBC News at the Steer Inn, on Indy’s east side.
“We’ve added a net increase of 150 patrol officers to IMPD,” he said, when questioned about incidents like the downtown shooting near Steak n’ Shake, where six people were shot.
Hogsett took criticism from his Republican opponent, Jim Merritt, for not showing up after the shooting. Merritt held a press conference the next day, denouncing Hogsett’s decision to be his own public safety commissioner.
“Frankly as the former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Indiana, I think I’m uniquely well-qualified to work with law enforcement at federal, state and local levels, because I have relationships with all of those folks,” said the mayor. He said he believes the $4 million investment from the city on anti-crime programs, with the addition of the 150 officers, is paying off.
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Hogsett said violent crimes have been down for two years, even though homicides have increased year over year.
“Even though it’s still the middle of October, we may very well at the end of this year, see the very first reduction in a year over year basis, in the number of homicides in our city.”
Hogsett said that statement is no declaration of victory. “There’s still more to be done.”
But, he did answer Merritt’s decision to announce he would replace Police Chief Bryan Roach, were he elected, with Bill Benjamin, a Democrat who ran for Marion County sheriff.
“Bryan has been a career law enforcement officer. I think he has the respect of the rank and file (in IMPD) and I think he’s been an outstanding police chief,” said Hogsett.
“Children are being murdered. People are being shot on the streets downtown. Last week, a man was gunned down outside a Broad Ripple establishment. We’ve experienced shootings all across our city and, just a few days ago, a man was robbed and murdered in his own home,” Merritt said, in criticism of Hogsett.
“It is not getting better. Joe Hogsett has failed our city. He is not leading law enforcement and not protecting our communities.”
Hogsett said the violent crime the city is experiencing is part of a trend that has been building since before he came on the job.
“We have seen an increase in the number of homicides in Indianapolis, year over year, throughout this entire decade. That began long before I was mayor.”
He added that it is still his responsibility, and that he takes it seriously as he plans for the next four years. Hogsett said he hopes to see a reduction in all violent crimes, and also would like to see the full implementation of the use of body cameras by IMPD officers, which will be costly, but “it prtects the officers and it protects the public and it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis