INDIANAPOLIS — After numerous homicides in Indianapolis this week, including one Thursday morning at a Broad Ripple pub, the state senator running for mayor is blaming Indianapolis' current leader for crimes he said are happening far too often.
"As somebody who has lived here for 60 years, this is not the Indianapolis I grew up in," Jim Merritt said. "This is Joe Hogsett's Indianapolis and the accountability is with the mayor."
Merritt said the crime in Indianapolis is out of hand and blames Hogsett for the multiple violent crimes that have happened just this week.
Merritt said Hogsett's decision to dissolve the duties of the public safety director into the mayor's duties mean Hogsett is the person who should be held responsible for the crime rate Merritt said is increasing.
"When the mayor took office, he decided he was not going to have a public safety director that he would be in charge of public safety and he said the proof would be in the pudding in regards to crime, fire, ambulance and most importantly law enforcement. The pudding is spoiled. The pudding has been poisoned," Merritt said.
In a statement, Mayor Hogsett's campaign pushed back on Merritt by citing data from a Brennan Center for Justice study, which shows crime in Indianapolis was down last year.
As for the role of the public safety director, a Heather K. Sager, a spokesperson with the Hogsett campaign said,
Upon taking office in 2016, Mayor Hogsett launched an effort to overhaul the Indianapolis criminal justice system and address more than a decade of rising crime and violence. The Mayor abolished the bureaucratic Department of Public Safety in order to establish a streamlined, open-door policy between the police and fire chiefs and the Office of the Mayor, instead refocusing on community-based violence reduction efforts that have included growing grants for grassroots organizations by more than $1 million. This move created direct accountability between the mayor, the chiefs of Indianapolis’ public safety agencies, and the people they serve.
Mayor Hogsett believes that experts should lead Indianapolis’ public safety agencies — that’s why his police and fire chiefs have more than 60 years of combined experience in the departments they lead. Together, Mayor Hogsett and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach have returned the department to neighborhood-based beat policing and are working to hire a net gain of 150 police officers. And after all these efforts and more, Indianapolis is seeing progress — overall violent crime was down in 2018 and many indicators, including criminal homicides, are trending down in 2019.
The Hogsett campaign said reducing the number of management positions in the public safety chain has made it easier to focus on community-based anti-violence programs.
Merritt said, if elected to office, the job of public safety director would return and be elevated to the level of deputy mayor.
"When I become mayor, job No. 1, priority No. 1 will be public safety, and it will be on these shoulders," Merritt said.