INDIANAPOLIS (FOX59) – 2021 was another rough year for Indianapolis and the men and women who swear to protect it with their lives. There were 271 homicides, 250 were murders, and both were records in their categories. More than 700 people survived being shot last year, and that was a record, too.
The number of officers who retired or left the department last year was more than those hired to replace them. IMPD officers were first on the scene of three mass murders that claimed 18 lives. IMPD Chief Randal Taylor wants to do better by his officers in 2022.
“One of the things I would like to look at in ’22 is some kind of way to get our officers through a mental health screening once, maybe twice a year, and those talks have started,” Taylor told the City County Council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee last week.
Taylor’s remarks served as a preview of the 2022 IMPD Priorities address he’ll give with Mayor Joe Hogsett Monday. The chief told councilors that two years of COVID social distancing literally left his officers at a distance with the community they serve.
“One of the things we want to do in ’22 is have these district town hall-type meetings,” said Taylor. “A lot of times when we do those meetings, it’s the same people, so were not hitting the people that we need to hit, so, maybe we need to switch it up with different times of day or maybe do it on a weekend or something like that.”
District 13 Councilor Keith Graves was glad to hear Taylor’s plans for face-to-face meetings between beat officers and neighbors.
“That is crime prevention because coming together, it means that we’ve got a department of resources that we can call to squash the beefs that are existing in our community,” said Graves. “We don’t have to take care of it ourselves because we no longer…we don’t trust these guys to come and take care of it for us, so we can start to erode some of that street justice in our community and I know that’s probably been one of the big drivers in the violence that we’ve seen.”
Office of Public Health and Safety Director Lauren Rodriquez told the committee one relatively new community anti-crime program is such an unfortunate success that it needs to be beefed up.
“We have the victim witness assistance program,” she said. “This program served 105 individuals last year for victims who may have been faced with retaliatory efforts, so we’re really excited about that and I believe that’s growing in number. Unfortunately, we have more victims or witnesses needing assistance.”
Rodriquez said OPHS intends to expand the Assessment Intervention Center at the Community Justice Center to 60 beds and hire a manager to oversee the city’s mental health outreach programs and partnerships.
She also expects to hire a communications manager to disseminate information about the $45 million in community anti-violence spending funded by federal aid to which Mayor Hogsett has committed over the next three years.
The city and the Indianapolis Public Safety Foundation are also in the process of hiring 50 life coaches, outreach workers and violence interrupters to spread throughout the community in an attempt to quell beefs and solve problems before they explode into violence.
Rodriquez said violence interrupters intervened in such incidents more than 600 times last year.
Taylor said that IMPD’s homicide clearance rate climbed by six percent last year.
Other statistics show that the homicide and non-fatal shooting rates slowed in the second half of 2021 as compared to the first six months of last year.
“In order to get on top of these issues with the homicide numbers, with the murder numbers, it’s going to take work from not only the police department but the community, the prosecutors office, the judges, all those parties, all those groups, are gonna be important for us to get on top of it,” Taylor told the councilors.
This year IMPD will spend nearly $300 million with $30 million committed over the next three years to enhanced technology and data systems and hiring.
“We do have money coming in that will help us with technology, with camera systems, with computer programs that should be able to help us better navigate what kind of crimes are occurring, where they’re occurring, what times they’re occurring, in an effort to get our officers in those areas to stop that from happening or at least make an arrest when they do happen,” said Taylor. “We are looking at gunshot detection technology… that will use cameras and microphones in order to pinpoint gunshots and where they’re coming from, again, in an effort to get officers out there quickly to either catch the suspects or render aid to those who could be injured.”
Mayor Hogsett has refused to refer to 2022 as a “make-or-break” year for his community anti-violence and enhanced law enforcement spending strategy to turn the tide of violence.
Indeed, much of the mayor’s promised $15 million in community program spending has not yet been allocated so results from the first year of those programs may not be known until 2023.