By Russ McQuaid | Fox 59 (Indianapolis)
Feb. 16, 2021
INDIANAPOLIS — Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office has finally released a report it has had since last May on how to reduce violence in Indianapolis.
In late 2019 and early 2020, the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform visited Indianapolis and spoke with government and law enforcement leaders and community stakeholders to create the “Indianapolis Violence Reduction” report, which the city received last spring in the days before civil injustice protests turned violent downtown.
Since that time, Hogsett, the City-County Council and IMPD have undertaken police oversight reforms, changed the department’s use of force policy, reprioritized community crime prevention spending and beefed up the resources of the Office of Community Violence Reduction, and yet did not release the NICJR report publicly until after it was first leaked this week to the Indy Star.
Hogsett and IMPD Chief Randy Taylor did not respond to a request for an explanation as to why this report was not released to the public at large despite ongoing debates about public safety in Indianapolis.
The report accurately recounts that while reported crime has fallen in most major categories across Indianapolis during the past couple years, homicides and non-fatal shootings are at record levels.
By comparison, larger cities have seen significant homicide reductions while smaller cities have invested more money into community based violence reduction efforts.
The report highlights the work of the Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership, which allows detectives from throughout the metro area to compare notes and target the most violent offenders, and the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, which has markedly improved the collection of firearms evidence, as progressive law enforcement advancements.
However, the report’s authors suggest drilling down to better identify those committing violent crime in Indianapolis and strategizing attempts to interrupt the cycle of violence.
The report recommends conducting a “Gun Violence Assessment” to “determine the true nature of gun violence in the City,” in order to identify the motivation of such violence.
A “Full-time Gun Violence Reduction Strategy Manager” is recommended, answerable to Hogsett, who eliminated the office of Public Safety Director when he was sworn in five years ago, referring to himself as “The Public Safety Mayor” at the time when violent crime was poised for a dramatic increase across the city.
IMPD is encouraged to conduct “Regular Shooting Reviews,” which would meet weekly to determine the cause of recent gun violence or the potential for retaliation, as well as develop “60-90 Day Enforcement Plans” to target an immediate response to gun violence that is “person specific.”
Metro police already assign its Violent Crime Unit and District FLEX Teams to focus on violent crime, and the report recommends expansion of those units.
The report found that while city and police leaders don’t identify Indianapolis as having an organized gang problem, it suggests IMPD put more investigative emphasis on groups of young people involved in violence that may not necessarily be gang-on-gang but rather directed at the community at large.
“Probably the most shocking piece was the lack of information on gangs,” said Rev. David Greene Sr., of the Concerned Clergy. “Many times we ask the question, they tell you we don’t have a gang problem. That report implied that we’re not really collecting that data.”
The report also noted that officers feel overwhelmed and outnumbered to tackle the task at hand, a dilemma IMPD and Hogsett have recognized and sought to resolve with additional hiring.
“Resources are gonna be needed to fix this public safety crisis that we have,” said Rev. Greene. “If we don’t commit resources to probably every one of those areas, we’re not gonna overcome this crisis. It’s gonna take resources at every component of that.”
The report suggests that violence-prone offenders and high-risk individuals be referred for enhanced monitoring and outreach by “Life Coaches,” while IMPD should improve its data and intelligence gathering and coordination.
“If you got some silos, that needs to be fixed. You have to eliminate those silos to work more effectively together and better utilize the resources that you do have,” said Rev. Greene, who called for an IMPD manpower study to determine the workload for various units. “We need to utilize the technology that we do have, things that we have invested a lot of dollars in, but make sure it’s not done inside a silo.”
In response to the delayed release of the report, the Office of Public Health and Safety issued the following statement:
In 2019, the Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS) commissioned the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) to assess violence reduction efforts in Indianapolis. We welcomed the opportunity for an honest, thorough evaluation of what we as a city are doing right, but also what could be improved. The report was shared with staff and city agencies working on this issue, and it was also distributed externally to City-County Councillors, community partners, and grant recipients – individuals and organizations working with the City of Indianapolis to address the complex, multilayered causes of violence.
Since the report was received and shared with internal and external stakeholders in May 2020, OPHS and IMPD have taken a number of steps to implement the report’s recommendations. OPHS requested and received $155,000 in additional funding for group violence intervention programming in 2021, as well as funding for a new OPHS deputy director position devoted to violence reduction policy. IMPD and OPHS have strengthened their information-sharing partnership and have put into action a number of the report’s recommendations regarding regular shooting reviews, and the follow-up gun violence assessment recommended by the report is currently in process. The City’s training and technical assistance partnership with NICJR is ongoing.