Transcend Politics to Make City Safe

By Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

November 20, 2005
This is what I love about the newspaper business: A week ago Thursday, The Star ran a Page One story with a large headline that said, "More robberies plague county."

Six days later, Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson announced the arrests of nine suspects wanted in connection with 30 robberies in the county during the past several weeks.

"Working together with the other (law enforcement) agencies, hopefully we can knock this number down as low as we can get it," Anderson said.

The "number" to which he referred was the 18 percent increase in robberies that Star reporters Vic Ryckaert and Kevin Corcoran wrote about in their earlier story. Was there a connection between our story and the announcement of the arrests? I'd like to think so.

It's unacceptable that as violent crime, including robbery, is going down nationally, armed robberies are increasing at home. It's unacceptable that four men -- a retired dance instructor, a restaurant owner, an out-of-town construction worker and a convenience store co-owner -- were killed during robberies within a one-month period this fall.

It's unacceptable that in many areas of Marion County, neighbors are abuzz over strangers going around door-to-door during the day, looking for an easy entry into an empty home.

I don't care for bad news, contrary to what you may think.

I don't like telling stories that may give people the impression that my community is becoming less safe.

But if printing more stories about crime trends is what it will take to get action from county leadership, The Star will be more than willing to oblige.

People in Marion County are not running around in fear of their lives. But many of my neighbors, and I suspect yours, are increasingly concerned not just about petty crime, but also about the thought of being held up at gunpoint. I'm luckier than most people. I'm working in a job that can help make a difference. That's a big reason I come to work every day.

I hope our story helped push Anderson and other law enforcement agencies to step up and demonstrate that, yes, they're going to work harder to make us safer.

I suspect Monday night's City-County Council rejection of a plan to merge city and county police forces also may have had something to do with it.

Anderson, who for months sat on the fence, then rejected, then just days ago supported a merger, may have felt compelled to show that despite the Monday night vote, law enforcement would continue apace.

Count me among the skeptics.

Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat, and Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, a Republican, don't agree on much when it comes to politics. But they do agree that overcrowded jails and an overwhelmed criminal justice system are letting too many criminals go free, without paying enough of a penalty to deter crimes.

Why isn't something being done to fix it?

Because that would require Republicans and Democrats to agree that public safety should transcend politics. It would require them to sit down together and agree to support whatever it takes to make this community safe.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading The Indianapolis Star.