Jail, task force among mayor’s crime ‘epidemic’ solutions

Joe Hogsett (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A newly announced task force will begin work on solving what the leader of Indianapolis calls the city’s “crime epidemic.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett spent much of his first State of the City address Wednesday night on the problems he sees with the criminal justice system.

Included in his stated priorities is a new jail for the county which continues a decade’s old discussion.

“The state of our city is strong,” he said.

One of his big topics was public safety and what he called a crime epidemic that is growing more violent.

Hogsett has also joined others, including the Marion County sheriff and previous leaders in calling the current jail buildings outdated and overcrowded.

The mayor said the situation is even worse after changes in state law that now send more inmates to local jails over state prison.

In April, Sheriff John Layton declared a jail emergency.

The previous administration had proposed building a nearly $2 billion justice center at the site of an old General Motors stamping plant on the southwest side of Indianapolis. The City-County Council never brought former mayor Greg Ballard’s plan to a vote because of debate over funding.

Details of how Hogsett planned to make a new jail a reality were not just immediately unknown, they had not been created. Instead, during Wednesday’s address he announced the creation of a criminal justice task force charged with suggesting solutions for a troubled system.

“These recommendations will no doubt include a new jail but unlike plans of the past they will not be limited to that. They will look at and create a comprehensive plan of reform for our entire criminal justice system. From prevention, mental health and drug addiction to arrest, pretrial detention, community corrections and sentencing,” Hogsett said.

The mayor said the task force would present the city its findings by the end of the calendar year.

In the half hour speech, the new mayor touched on issues ranging from community policing to increasing Pre-K opportunities for families.

“In the midst of a four year rising tide of violent crime, we made several fundamental changes in our city’s approach to public safety,” Hogsett said.

The mayor praised the elimination of the Department of Public Safety, calling it “one of the city’s bureaucracies.”

He talked about creating the new Office of Public Health and Safety.

“A modern holistic approach to public safety, one that focuses on the root causes of crime such as poverty and mental health and one that prioritizes an investment in our young people before they enter the criminal justice system altogether,” Hogsett said.

“We’re thinking that with the new administration there’s going to be changes made and things are going to get better,” Marion County Public Health Deptartment employee Sonja Marion said.

Hogsett spoke about tearing down unsafe and abandoned homes in the city.

He also spoke about an executive order he signed Wednesday ending a ban on new streetlights that has been in place since 1981.

“Within the next 30 days we will begin installation of 100 new streetlights,” Hogsett said.

The mayor heard big applause when talking about the return of community based beat policing.

“I love that idea because I do not know who serves my area in terms of police,” resident Linda Porter said.

Hogsett ended his speech acknowledging the difficulty of the goals, but the need for Indy to reach for them.

“At the end of the day, let no one say, let no one say that we took the easy path,” Hogsett said.

He also announced that 1000 summer jobs will be added for teens this summer.

Indy has also been selected by the White House as a Summer Opportunity Hub because of the summer job program.

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