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State lawmakers take aim at violent crime in Indianapolis

The bills address issues such as electronic monitoring and when someone can be released on bail.

INDIANAPOLIS — At the statehouse Thursday, Marion County's Republican senators announced a whole package of bills aimed at curbing crime.

They detailed a total of five bills that address some of the things community leaders and the police union have been complaining about.

Senate Bill 6 would reduce the number of violent offenders released on bail by requiring courts to review arrest warrants before release, holding open bail hearings and requiring the arrestee to pay the full minimum bail amount in cash.

"We have seen far too many violent offenders released back in to our communities with little or no supervision, and it has resulted in the injury and death of numerous citizens and law enforcement officers," said State Sen. R Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. "By increasing oversight and transparency in how our bail system operates, I believe we can reduce the number of these acts of violence."

Senate Bill 7 would establish a Marion County crime reduction board that would allow for better collaboration between law enforcement agencies.

"Making sure all of our law enforcement agencies have access to all available information and resources is just one way we can help reduce crime in the downtown policing districts," said State Sen. Jack E. Sandlin, R-Indianapolis. "Communication is key, and I believe allowing everyone involved to work as one entity with common goals is going to push us in the right direction."

Senate Bill 8 would regulate charitable bail organizations by requiring they register with the Department of Insurance. This bill would also prohibit these organizations from bailing out individuals charged with a felony.

"In the past year, we have seen numerous violent crimes occur because these organizations are enabling violent offenders to go free and without supervision. These nonprofits need to have some set of standards to follow," said State Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis. "Under no circumstances should public tax dollars be used to bond criminals out of jail, and if bail is paid by a nonprofit organization, that money should go toward court administrative costs and be deducted from what is returned."

On Thursday, the Marion Superior Court voted to suspend its support of the Bail Project. The court is asking for data on how many of the individuals bailed out by the project ended up violating terms of the release or being arrested on new charges. The court will hold a meeting on the issue on Jan. 10 before deciding whether or now to move forward with the Bail Project.

The Bail Project's David Gasper offered this response to Thursday's action:

"Judges set cash bail and once they do, it should not matter who posts the bail, whether it is a family member, a bail bonds company, or a charity like ours. The fact that our not-for-profit is being singled out for requirements is concerning. We stand by the value of our services in helping people who are too poor to afford bail and we look forward to discussing our program directly with the court to address the topics raised in this letter. In the meantime, we will continue providing bail assistance as we have for nearly 1,000 low-income Hoosiers to date, particularly with the holidays around the corner when so many families are separated because they cannot afford bail for a loved one."

13News has reported on several violent crimes in Indianapolis that involved people released on bail or let out with electronic monitoring.

RELATED: IMPD detectives arrest 17-year-old in July murder

RELATED: State lawmakers call for review of Marion County's 'broken' bail system, electronic monitoring

Senate Bill 9 would implement stricter standards for electronic monitoring by increasing oversight of people being monitored. It would also increase penalties for tampering with monitors. This legislation would allow victims to be alerted if the person wearing a monitor leaves their designated location.

"This bill will codify standards to ensure we are fully equipped to manage the large number of individuals being monitored," said State Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Lawrence. "Given the number of times offenders cut off monitors or simply commit crimes while wearing one, we need to reevaluate how this system works."

Senate Bill 10 would establish a pilot program to distribute funds to high-crime areas to cover overtime and additional services for police officers. 

"This program would allow us to target areas being affected most by crime," said State Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield. "By allocating resources where they are needed most, we will be able to have more boots on the ground keeping our citizens safe."

Both the Indianapolis FOP president and state FOP president were on hand for the announcement and backed the bills.

"I applaud these senators that have put in long hours and purposeful work to try to fix those flaws in the system and correct some things that are absolutely, positively, undoubtedly going to save lives," said Bill Owensby, Indiana FOP president.

"We are grateful that our leaders on this end of Market Street have stood at a podium and tried to take steps to fix this. I want to strongly encourage the leaders of Indianapolis on the other end of Market Street to start talking about what they can do on their end," said Rick Snyder, Indianapolis FOP president.

Democrats responded saying they agree action needs to be taken, but question the laws proposed by Republicans.

“Right now, one of the best things we can do in response to the violent crime we’re seeing is take action on marijuana reform. At the moment, funding and resources are still being expended to arrest non-violent offenders in possession of a substance that’s legal in 36 states. It’s ridiculous, it's wasteful and it takes law enforcement time and resources away from focusing on violent crimes that are hurting our families the most," said Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis.

Taylor went on to say that Democrats would be proposing their own legislation meant to strengthen trust between the community and police force.

“I’m hopeful that my colleagues in the Statehouse will be open and receptive to comprehensive solutions to addressing crime in our capital city. Combatting and reducing violence won’t take place overnight, but we can get it done if we work to address the root of the issue," Taylor said.

The Indiana General Assembly is set to reconvene for the 2022 legislative session on Jan. 4.

   

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