(The Center Square) – Five Republican state senators have introduced a package of bills they believe will help stem the tide of violent crime in Indianapolis.
The first is a bill, authored by longtime Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, would ban third parties who are not close relatives from posting bail for violent criminals.
“We have seen far too many violent offenders released back into our communities with little or no supervision, and it has resulted in the injury and death of numerous citizens and law enforcement officers,” Young said in a statement announcing the bill. “By increasing oversight and transparency in how our bail system operates, I believe we can reduce the number of these acts of violence.”
Young’s bill, Senate Bill 6, is the first Senate bill introduced in the new legislative session.
It would make two other changes to state law, including requiring a court review a probable cause affidavit or arrest warrant before releasing a violent arrestee on bail and requiring a hearing in open court before bail is set.
If passed, a violent arrestee would have to pay 100% of the minimum bail amount by cash deposit, with none of it coming from anyone who isn’t a “close relative.”
Bail and how it’s posted and by whom has become a focus in the discussion about violent crime in Indianapolis. The nonprofit group The Bail Project has come under scrutiny after it was reported recently that a man they helped with bail in Indianapolis allegedly stabbed two police officers in the city.
There have been a record 263 homicides in Indianapolis this year. In 2012, there were just 96 homicides in the city.
The problem, according to some, is the city’s handling of repeat offenders.
“We keep recycling them and putting them back on the street,” the Rev. Charles Harrison, leader of a nonprofit group called the Indy Ten Point Coalition, told WIBC radio Monday. “We have to fix the broken judicial system with the prosecutor and the courts.”
A second bill, introduced by Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, would establish a crime reduction board in Marion County and allow for interoperability among 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,” Sandlin said in a statement.
A third bill, authored by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, would require charitable bail organizations like The Bail Project register with the Indiana Department of Insurance. The bill would also prohibit organizations from bailing out anyone 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 without supervision,” said Freeman in announcing the bill. “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.”
A fourth bill, authored by Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Lawrence, would impose stricter standards for electronic monitors, including increased penalties for tampering with monitors.
A fifth bill, authored by Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, would set up a pilot program to distribute funds to high-crime areas to cover overtime and additional services for police. The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute would operate the program.
Many of the provisions of the five bills reflect or are similar to what the police union has been requesting for months.
Rick Snyder, the president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police, announced in early June the FOP membership had met and had voted unanimously to declare Indianapolis a “city in crisis” and decried the violence “sweeping over” the city and the lack of any response from political leaders after 10 police officers in the city were violently attacked in one weekend.
The union, he said, wants to stop low bond for violent offenders and to stop the automatic release of repeat convicted violent offenders.
‘The system cycles them right back into our neighborhoods,” he said, pointing out that people arrested for felony battery, pointing a firearm, stalking and strangulation are all automatically released after posting $500 cash bond.
In early December, Synder announced at a press conference the union was proposing several changes, including having judges review probable cause affidavits before setting bond, prohibiting automatic bond for repeat offenders and tighter regulations of nonprofit bail organizations.