Indianapolis Business Journal Editorial

Crime Problems Can Kill Growth
City Must Focus on Public Safety

November 21, 2005
Where Indianapolis' future is concerned, optimism abounds in spite of a gathering storm.

In the "What Keeps You Up at Night?" feature on page 54, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association President and CEO Bob Bedell talks about how well-positioned the city will be to compete for big conventions once the new convention center is finished.

Beginning on page 25 [of Indianapolis Business Journal November 21-27, 2005, issue], our Power Players in Commercial Real Estate discuss the many advantages associated with developing and leasing office, retail and industrial space here: The city is centrally located, vibrant, easy to navigate, a great place to raise a family. The list goes on.

What isn't top of mind for the business community, at least not yet, is that the city's public safety infrastructure is in shambles. Unless we summon the courage to find the money to fix it, the city's ability to lure conventions, attract real estate investment, sustain existing businesses, and grow its life sciences economy will be in jeopardy.

This is a city without enough officers to fight crime. It's a city whose judicial system is inadequate, in both staffing and physical facilities, to try the accused. And it's a city without enough jail space to house the convicted. The system's deficiencies are well-known, making it open season for those inclined to commit crimes against people and property.

A city perceived as unsafe won't sustain its economy in the long term.

In the face of this growing problem, attempts at piecemeal improvement are doomed by politics. Mayor Peterson's police consolidation proposal died a partisan death even as it tried to chip away at a bipartisan problem.

Had the mayor's proposal succeeded, it wouldn't have solved all our public safety problems. It wouldn't have addressed the safety and efficiency concerns that go along with housing 30 courts in a City-County Building designed to hold half that number. And it wouldn't have addressed the futility of apprehending criminals who are sometimes allowed back out on the streets because there's nowhere to house them.

With the city's public officials spinning their wheels, business leaders must intervene and push for a comprehensive solution.

A city that can marshal the forces necessary to build a stadium and convention center can surely muster the focus, commitment and cooperation to fix a problem that puts everyone's lives and livelihoods at risk.