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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Republican candidate for mayor Jim Merritt is vowing a full court press in high crime areas.

Extra attention to crime hotspots, and a return to old-fashioned beat policing to connect police to neighborhoods, have been the centerpieces of Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration. Merritt charges those efforts haven’t been far-reaching enough. He says he’d form a metro homicide unit combining local and federal police agencies, and cutting across IMPD divisions to incorporate officers from the vice, gang and drug units. And the Indianapolis state senator says  he’d swarm hotspots with 10-to-15 squad cars at once and conduct warrant sweeps near murder scenes. 

IMPD abandoned the saturation patrol approach after concluding it created tension in the community. Merritt argues if police take the time to build relationships with the community, the police presence will lead to feelings of security, not resentment. He accuses Hogsett of failing to build those relationships, and says he’d be in neighborhoods regularly, including meeting face-to-face with crime victims and their families.

And Merritt says he’d cut short an IMPD pilot project for police body cameras, and move as quickly as possible to equip all police with the cameras.

Indy has set new homicide records four years in a row, and the annual homicide totals have risen eight years in a row. With 97 homicides so far in 2019, the city is on pace for the fewest killings since 2014, though that would still be a higher total than any year before that. IMPD has noted that while the murder and aggravated assault numbers are rising, property crimes and other violent crimes have gone down. Merritt says he questions those numbers, arguing many property crimes are going unreported. He says people don’t feel safe.

Hogsett campaign spokeswoman Heather Sager issued a statement noting the improved crime numbers, and warning what she calls Merritt’s “chest-pounding” approach would “create a culture of fear harmful to neighborhoods and officers alike.” She dismisses Merritt’s call for improved police-community relations as “lip service.”

Indianapolis State Senator and Republican candidate for mayor Jim Merritt (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)