Mayor Ballard meets with Obama to discuss youth violence

Mayor Greg Ballard talks with reporters at Indianapolis International Airport Tuesday evening.
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Mayor Greg Ballard is attacking the threat of youth violence and revealing why he was called to the White House to discuss the problem in our city.

The mayor returned from the nation's capital where he met with President Barack Obama and mayors from 18 other cities.

Ballard said the mayors talked and the president listened.

"I told him we had a little spike this summer, but we also had a plan we're executing," said Ballard.

The mayor was referring to a rash of shootings this past July, where nine people were shot and five people killed in just six days. Some of the victims and suspects were teens.

Still, the mayor said violent crime is down eight percent from what it was last year at this time.

"The difference this year is that the bullets are landing in vital areas and people are dying," said the city's Public Safety Director, Troy Riggs.

Riggs accompanied the mayor on his trip and connected with public safety officials from other cities, like Chicago.

"We're also talking about sharing data on some of our gang members and violent offenders because we know that some of those in Chicago end up moving to Indy when the heat's on and vice versa," Riggs explained. "We want to make sure that our intelligence units are talking."

What became clear at the meeting, said the mayor, is whatever cities are doing to combat youth violence, they're trying to do it without breaking the budget.

"Everybody's in agreement that there's really no money, new money, that's coming from anywhere,' said Ballard.

According to the mayor, one topic not discussed was whether putting more police officers on the streets would help.

"That particular subject never came up, because everyone knows, across the country, times are tough," said Ballard.

The mayor has proposed eliminating the homestead credit to close a budget gap and free up money to hire more police. It's a move that some on the City-County Council oppose.

"We have to stay fiscally responsible and if they don't want to do that, then they're going to have to find another way, or else they're going to explain to the public why there aren't more cops on the streets," said Ballard.

Tuesday's meeting was closed to reporters and none of the mayors discussed the session when they emerged from the White House.
The White House says Obama praised local efforts to stem violence. He also told the mayors he would continue to seek measures that control gun violence through executive actions and by pressing Congress to expand a background check system.
Earlier this year, the Senate blocked an effort to broaden background checks. The effort was prompted by a shooting rampage at a Connecticut school last December that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead.