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Indiana Republican senators unveil package of bills aimed at crime reduction

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Brandon Smith/IPB News
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Indiana Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Owensby, right, speaks about proposed legislation alongside Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), left, and Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), center.

Indiana Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Owensby, right, speaks about proposed legislation alongside Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), left, and Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), center.
Credit Brandon Smith/IPB News

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A group of Republican senators from Marion County unveiled a package of bills Thursday that seeks to address what they view as a worrying trend of violent crimes.

The number of violent crimes in Marion County has gone down each of the last four years.

The measures include greater cooperation between law enforcement agencies in downtown Indianapolis, a pilot program to target money towards so-called violent crime hotspots and greater oversight of electronic monitoring.

Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) said the bills target those charged with the state’s list of 21 violent crimes, which includes battery, kidnapping, rape and burglary.

“We know the odds are, if you’re a serious violent felon, you’re more likely to be the one that killed somebody,” Young said.

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Young’s measure would make it harder for people charged with violent crimes to be released on bail. That includes making them pay the full minimum bail amount in cash.

He insisted that won’t unfairly punish low-income Hoosiers.

“There’s not a lot of millionaires that I know that are going around killing citizens of Indianapolis today,” Young said.

The Vera Institute of Justice has been doing research in Indiana on some of these issues. Jasmine Heiss, Vera's In Our Backyards Initiative director, said the state's pretrial system does need reform. But she said Young's proposal is at odds with public safety.

"The use of money bail, which is set every day in courtrooms across Indiana results in two systems of justice: one for the rich and another for the poor," Heiss said. "People with money can buy their pretrial liberty while poor people remain in jail unless their loved ones scrape together enough money to pay bail or until their case concludes."

And Heiss noted pretrial incarceration can have deadly consequences, since someone has died in Indiana's jails an average of every two weeks for more than a decade.

Heiss said judges should be allowed to consider the individual circumstances of each case. To that end, Young's bill would require courts to review arrest warrants before releasing an arrestee.

The measures will likely get a hearing in the Senate in early January.

This story has been updated.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.