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- On his first full day in office, Mayor Joe Hogsett convened a public safety summit to discuss the rising tide of violence in the city.
With the transition of the Greg Ballard administration to the Joe Hogsett team completed, one topic of concern seems clear to the city of Indianapolis: public safety.
According to a column in the Dec. 27 issue of the Indianapolis Star, "In 2014, the city's 135 homicides were the most since 2006. This year, the city eclipsed that mark in November."
However from the beginning of his campaign, Hogsett has made it very clear that he has an earnest desire to focus on the public safety of Indianapolis.
"He wants to improve the quality of life in all the neighborhoods so that crime does not take root and flourish," said David Wantz, the interim public safety director for Indianapolis.
Hogsett's first two appointments were that of the police and fire chiefs, sending a message that he wants to follow through on his promises of reeling in the crime rate in Indianapolis.
"The voters chose Hogsett as the man they wish to lead the city and I don't think it was a popularity contest," Wantz said. "I think he had a clear vision of what he wanted to see happen."
But while one of the first tasks Hogsett accomplished was naming the new police and fire chiefs, he also made a bold statement by not naming a new public safety director. Rather, he named himself.
Wantz will return to his position with the University of Indianapolis as the vice president for community and government relations and special assistant to the president at the end of March.
"The fact that the mayor has said that he will be the director of public safety is a very bold statement that he is incredibly serious about making sure that the job gets done well," Wantz said.
By not having an individual whose only focus is overseeing all of the police and fire departments of Indianapolis, can the public safety concern really be addressed?
With every shift in the city's leadership, the position of the public safety director changes as well. There have been a variety of people, all from different career backgrounds, who have held the position in the past. But will the mayor have time to focus on being the director of public safety while also running the city?
"It will not negatively affect the situation of crime in the city because the director of public safety is a civilian," Wantz said. "He or she cannot make any arrests."
- Dr. David Wantz
Hogsett has also put together a three-prong plan that will work to improve the public safety of Indianapolis. According to the Hogsett Public Safety Plan, it will address neighborhood-based crime, new law enforcement strategies, and put more focus onto prisoners re-entering society after incarceration.
One step in that direction was the creation of One City Indy, "an unprecedented effort to bring together talented individuals who are passionate about moving Indianapolis forward," according to the One City Indy website.
"In our democracy, elections naturally create competition between us," Hogsett said on the One City Indy website. "And that is appropriate, until the election is over. But now is the time for us to come together again as we were intended to — regardless of party, or race, or faith or station in life. For we are ONE CITY."
"He wants to make sure that absolutely everybody is included," Wantz said. "He believes that it's more important for everybody to come together for the good of the city than to serve partisan or private desires."
In addition, Troy Riggs, a previous public safety director, was named the police chief by Hogsett. Riggs held a presentation at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) on Dec. 9 where he helped to explain the complexity of crime.
According to Wantz, crime just doesn't happen. There are things that happen, different variables in every community and neighborhood that lead to crime.
Rather than just following an assumption, Riggs began to gather information to show what areas of Indianapolis need more attention and effort, and the data he collected may lead to more informed decisions on what steps to take next in order to improve the quality of life in Indianapolis communities.
In his presentation, he shared data from six Indy "focus" areas. Data from those neighborhoods included standards of living, educational stats, student expulsions and the causes of those expulsions.
"I think it resonated with people immediately," Wantz said. "He helped for people to see just how complex the problems are in our community and it really got folks' attention."
After eight consecutive years with Ballard as the mayor of Indianapolis, the introduction of a fresh face with new and different ideas may seem intimidating because change can disrupt old routines. However, Wantz emphasized that the disruption isn't a bad thing.
"I believe that he needs to have the chance to work his vision," Wantz said. "He was elected by the people of Indianapolis based on the vision."
According to the Indianapolis Star, this election was the lowest voter turnout since 2007, bringing in only 22.69 percent of Marion County voters. Regardless of the low numbers at the polls, Wantz believes the city of Indianapolis voted Hogsett into office for his political vision.
"Mayor Hogsett deserves every chance to succeed and having been elected, it's in everybody's interest to help him achieve his vision for helping the city be the best place to live and work," Wantz said.
[Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect Dr. David Wantz as the interim public safety director for the city of Indianapolis. His title was previously published as former. Mayor Hogsett recently asked Wantz to stay in the position through the first quarter of the year.]