Donald Trump made much of the violence in President Obama’s hometown during the first 2016 presidential debate with Hillary Clinton.
Clinton might have noted in reply that Chicago’s murder rate last year was topped by the murder rate in Indianapolis, where Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, resides as the governor of Indiana.
Pence himself should be asked about it during Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate with Tim Kaine. A pre-debate fact check shows the murder rate in Indianapolis reached 16.9 per 100,000 in 2015 with 144 murders, the most in that city’s history. Chicago’s rate came in slightly lower, 16.7 per 100,000, with 468 homicides in a city with more than three times the population.
In both cities, around 80 percent of the homicides involved firearms. Chicago police note that some 20 percent of the guns recovered in crime scenes there were purchased in Indiana, where access has gone from easy to even easier.
Pence’s most notable actions as governor with regard to firearms include arranging for the National Rifle Association to train the Indiana National Guard in carrying concealed weapons. Pence also signed laws that legalized sawed-off shotguns, permitted people to keep guns in vehicles in school parking lots, and retroactively barred a 1999 suit by the city of Gary against gun manufacturers.
Back in the 1990s, Gary was known as the murder capital of America. But its homicide rate has declined of late, by some estimations because even criminals there have joined the exodus for better opportunities elsewhere. Law-enforcement officials have suggested that migrating drug and robbery crews from Gary have contributed to the rise of killings in Indianapolis.
Earlier on the same July morning that Pence met with Donald Trump along with Ivanka and Donald Jr. and Eric at the governor’s mansion, a man was shot multiple times in the immediate vicinity of an ATM. A woman named Simona Jordan who lives near the scene of the shooting offered a local TV reporter an appraisal of Indianapolis, whatever the causes of its present condition.
“You can’t go to the bank, you can’t go to the grocery store, it’s just not safe no more,” she exclaimed.
The following week in Indianapolis, three people were found shot to death in close proximity to a sleeping 18-month-old baby, the dead including the child’s mother. The week after that saw nine people murdered in the city, three in one 24-hour period.
September again saw nine people murdered in a single week. The total on Sept. 26 stood at 116. This was 18 more than the 98 at the same point last year, suggesting that 2016 may top 2015 as the city’s all-time bloodiest.
And the number almost certainly would be even higher were it not for the efforts of a faith-based anticrime organization called the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition. The group’s leader, Rev. Charles Harrison, says that while many of the city’s homicides are related to drugs and gangs, a considerable number are the result of personal disputes that in earlier times might have been settled with fists.
“They go right to the guns,” Harrison told The Daily Beast on Monday. “Everyone on the street now feels the need to have a gun, so everybody is carrying a gun, so when you have these disputes people are already packing. Just people getting into disputes, it leads to gunplay.”
In an effort to stem the violence, Harrison’s group resolved last fall to target three areas that the Indianapolis police had designated “hot spots.” The group began by bringing together all the interested parties in each, including the residents, the police, the schools, city officials, and businesses.
“Everybody,” Harrison said, adding that the collective goal was “fighting crime and redirecting the lives of our young people.”
The focus was on preventing homicides involving those 14- to 24-years-old. Young men who previously had been on the wrong side of the law were organized into patrols that defused potentially deadly situations and directed anyone interested toward a jobs program.
“Jobs are the key,” Harrison said.
By Harrison’s count, the three targeted areas had reported 30 homicides in 2015 prior to the group’s efforts. Two of the areas have not witnessed a single homicide in the 14-to-24 age range over the 11 months since the group commenced its efforts. Two of the areas have gone without any homicides at all.
“None,” Harrison said.
Harrison told The Daily Beast that he had explained all this to Pence when the governor joined him on one of the patrols on July 12.
“He really seemed interested,” Harrison recalled.
But the very next day, Pence met at the governor’s residence with Trump and the stunted adults we call Trump’s kids. Trump announced by tweet two days later that he had chosen Pence as his running mate. Pence had accepted.
“I wish he wouldn’t have…” Harrison said Monday.
Meanwhile, one person who underestimated the dangers of Indianapolis was the 17-year-old who arranged to sell a cellphone via the online site OfferUp early Sunday morning. He took the precaution of arranging to conduct the transaction in a parking lot directly adjoining the back of the Indianapolis Police Department’s Southeast District headquarters. He also brought along an older man.
But neither the sidekick nor the proximity of the police station prevented the two supposed buyers from pulling a gun. The 17-year-old tried to run and was shot. He was rushed to the hospital and at last report the medical staff had managed to keep his name from joining the list of homicide victims.
Maybe somebody at Tuesday’s debate will ask Pence how even a parking lot behind a police station is not safe in the town where he now officially resides.