Fort Wayne will become the premier city of its size in the Midwest when it is the safest, smartest, and strongest city in the Midwest. Public safety is listed first in this equation because Fort Wayne will be neither smart nor strong until we are first safe. I have developed a clear path for making Fort Wayne the safest city in the Midwest. My plan hinges on common sense and applies proven techniques. Make no mistake: my work as Mayor to improve public safety in Fort Wayne will remain a top priority until neighbors feel safe walking their streets, violent crime rates plummet, and children can play outside without fear.
It wasn’t more than a generation ago that annual homicide rates in the Summit City were in single digits. A five year stretch in the mid-1980’s saw an average of 14 homicides a year. By the 1990s Fort Wayne’s homicide rate climbed to average 24 homicides a year. The most recent five years, from 2016 through 2018? An average of over 40 homicides every year! The amount of money budgeted is not the answer. Although compensation per officer is tragically low in comparison to other similarly sized cities (and must be corrected), money alone cannot solve this trend. Man’s inclination toward criminal activity and criminal violence is as old as mankind itself. The increase in violence is not simply a product of contemporary culture. But our culture, the culture of family, businesses, and non-profits in Fort Wayne can either ignore the statistics and accept the status quo or we can rise up as a community to re-claim the joy of public safety and of our family’s security.
Public safety proceeds from trust and good will. Common sense tells us that if a witness to a criminal act believes that reporting what they know will solve the crime with no adverse repercussions to themselves, then they will report what they know. But if the witness has little confidence that their report will solve the crime, little confidence that their report will be held confidentially, and little confidence that they will be safe from harm for making the report, then they will report what they know in fear, or they will report not at all. This fear defines where things stand today in Fort Wayne. More than 350 homicides remain unresolved in Fort Wayne because, in part, witnesses who know something that might solve the cases and bring justice to those grieved are afraid. They are afraid that their witness report will not be held in confidence; they are afraid that harm will come to them or to their loved ones; and they are afraid that their witness report will do little to move a case toward a conviction. Either this dynamic changes or we are destined to swallow the status quo and ever-increasing levels of criminally violent activity in our city.
Untangling this sorrowful knot begins with a professional police force that is trusted because it is engaged with the neighbors in every neighborhood. Trust requires regular contact. Trust is the product of familiarity and friendship. Human nature is inclined not to trust those we do not know. Twenty-five years ago the Fort Wayne Police force was moving vigorously in the right direction with Community Oriented Policing. Neil Moore, Chief of Police at the time, knew the effort was labor intensive. He also knew it worked. Violent crime was declining; cases were being solved. Community Oriented Policing engages the professional police staff with residents on their neighborhood streets and front porches. Police officers become personally known… and trusted. This only requires leadership from the Mayor’s office and effective command staff. Community Oriented Policing must be reinstituted. What’s more, as Mayor, I will institute a plan that handsomely rewards officers who elect to live in neighborhoods where crime is an ongoing problem. This initiative is a simple extension of Community Oriented Policing.
In an effort to staff, train and equip a professional police force for a city the size of Fort Wayne, I will offer budgets to City Council that increase pay for officers. I will aggressively recruit and promote officers based on their dedication to the rule of law and their commitment to its just enforcement. I will move officers from bloated back-office administrative positions to the front lines. The Fort Wayne Police presence will be increased in size, pay, training and, most importantly, effect. Violent crime will decrease. Our neighborhoods will be safer.
Becoming the safest City in the Midwest is the first and most important step to becoming the premier city of our size in the Midwest. Resolving the multi-faceted problems of public safety will require a humble approach and an authentic team of experienced law-enforcement professionals. Most of the ideas I have assembled here come from a small group of men and women who have devoted their lives to public safety. As mayor, I will use my common sense, my business experience, and my determination to serve them and to help all of us achieve what we all want: safe neighborhoods for every resident, a startling renewal of collaboration between neighbors and law enforcement, and a city that becomes the model for others to follow.More News