INDIANAPOLIS — After a record-breaking number of Indianapolis homicides last year, Indianapolis Metro Police and the mayor shared their plans to reduce violence in 2021.
In 2020, the United States saw the largest one-year increase in homicides in modern history. “We have not been immune from the troubling trend that has impacted cities across the United States,” said IMPD Chief Randal Taylor.
“While overall crime has continued to fall, criminal homicides skyrocketed,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. In Indianapolis, criminal homicides increased by nearly 40% from 2019. Hogsett cites COVID-19 as a contributing factor. "It has put mental emotional economic strain on residents across our city,” he said.
“We are seeing the need for money as a lot of what we are seeing through the drug trade,” said Shonna Majors, the city’s community violence reduction director.
Metro police say they ramped up staffing, local, state and federal partnerships, doubled down on community-based beat policing, increased foot and bike patrols, added 16 businesses to IMPD’s b-link program which added 45 street level cameras to IMPD’s network, issued over 1,000 body-worn cameras to their officers, and implemented “violence interrupters," who are people tasked with minimizing cyclical and retaliation violence.
Despite all this, Chief Taylor says a lot of their efforts were disrupted by COVID-19, especially in-person meeting with youth. He hopes to get back to that this year.
“To see our city go through such a violent year which was already unprecedented with the coronavirus and the pandemic itself and to end at 245 homicides, it’s heartbreaking, it’s gut wrenching,” said Aaron Williams, City of Peace Coalition and Peace in the Streets leader.
Williams, who works with two community grassroots organizations focused on rooting out crime, says COVID-19 has been devastating for all, but it is no justification for the amount of violence we saw last year. “What we saw was a lack of leadership and we saw an opportunity for the city to go on to say here’s an excuse that we can use,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s right and I don’t think it’s fair for all the families that lost love ones.”
The mayor says the city is funding community-based violence prevention tactics at a historic level. Priorities for 2021 include: better accountability with the use-of-force review board which will contain a majority citizen involvement, improving data collection to solve and prevent crimes, focused policing on the small number of people and places driving the majority of the violence, and reigniting relationships with community groups to repair and build new bridges of trust between law enforcement and neighborhoods.
“As of this day, right now, we’ve had 12 homicides, we’ve had 64 people who have been shot, we have 12 people who have been stabbed and we are already on pace to eclipse 200 homicides in 2021,” said Williams. “And you’re trying to figure out with all these groups and all the work that we’re doing, why aren’t we getting more done? Why are we seeing the homicide numbers go down?”
To see a decrease in violence, Williams says the city and IMPD need to partner with community organizations already doing the work. “We met with the mayor over half a dozen times last year personally in his office, very highly confidential conversations, and really trying to work with him and his administration on things that could be done,” said Williams. “And we never moved the needle forward. As we continue to have the conversations with him and his staff, the homicides and the crime continue to escalate and we ask, when is enough going to be enough?”
He says groups need to work together and get support from the mayor’s office, encouraging city leaders for greater collaboration. “Get out in the streets and talk to the individuals who are out there doing the work, even some of your lesser known groups,” said Williams. “Make a commitment this month that the next 11 months will be different and safer than we want we saw in 2020.”