Ballard takes his crime plan to neighborhoods

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard took his crime prevention to the people for the first time Wednesday evening.

The mayor's plan calls for more officers and better education, but it comes at a cost.

Republicans and Democrats say they both want to look at the long-term problems that contribute to crime, including poor early childhood education.

Growing number of children are growing up in poverty. In Marion County, 32 percent of kids live in poverty, more than double the number from 15 years ago.

Moms like Britani Woodward worry about safety. Ballard says he does, too. His anti-crime plan calls for more police and more accessible, affordable, high-quality preschool for low-income children.

"Oh, it's important. I have six kids. He's in kindergarten and just started and he is already advanced and he is advanced, too, he's been going here for a year," Woodward said of two of her preschool sons.

She sees the difference early education makes in her own family.

"We'd probably be struggling. For instance, he doesn't have any preschool," she said of another son. "We struggle with him still. Second grade and is not mastering."

Economic success later in life is linked to quality preschools, Ballard said.

He would fund more preschool access by eliminating the homestead tax credit and moving money from other programs.

"You put them on a completely different path if you can get them in there," Ballard said.

He talked up his plan at a community meeting Wednesday in Southport. But opponents say "it's like robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Democratic mayoral hopeful Ed Delaney says libraries and other programs not only lose funding under Ballard's plan, but taxpayers pay more with loss of the homestead credit. But the mayor says it's only about two dollars a month to the typical homeowner.

And the way the tax credit is structured, Ballard said, "the working people are supporting the property rich."

It's a debate now before the City-County Council. It's a very real issue for families.

"It's very important. A child needs all the schooling and the help they can get," says a great-grandmother picking kids up from preschool.

Marion County Crime Statistics:

- 91 percent of murder suspects had criminal history

- 48 percent have drugs or robbery as motive

- 1,800 students are expelled or dropout of school

- 32 percent of children live in poverty