By: Tze Wan Goh
Mayor Tom Henry announced the 2020 Fort Wayne City budget, which mainly focuses on public safety on Sept. 19 at the city council meeting. The aim of the budget focuses on strengthening neighborhoods and providing important and necessary services to residents, neighborhoods and businesses, according to the mayor.
The budget will contribute additional 15 new police recruits to the Fort Wayne Police Department academy class, four new police K-9 units, a new explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) robot and x-ray system for the bomb unit, which is part of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s Special Operations Division.
In conjunction to the increase budget for the Fort Wayne Police Department, there will be 480 officers patrolling the streets in the city to make sure that the public is safe. The mayor is aiming to have full target staffing for both the Fort Wayne Police Department and Fire Department with the allocated budget.
“Fort Wayne is a safe city. Our top priority is ensuring the safety and protection of residents, neighborhoods, businesses, and visitors,” Mayor Henry said. “We will continue to implement best practices as a community committed to being the very best.”
Fort Wayne’s crime rate has decreased this year, according to a joint statement released on Oct. 29 by Mayor Tom Henry and Police Chief Steve Reed. Homicide rates have decreased 44.44 percent, non-fatal shootings decreased by 16.09 percent and violent crime rates decreased by 7.3 percent, in comparison with the first three quarters of last year.
However, according to the September cumulative crime rate statistics from the Fort Wayne police department website, there were 19 homicides this year and 29 in 2018 during the years’ first three quarters, which is a decrease of 34 percent instead of 44 percent.
Joe Knepper, communications director for Republican mayoral candidate Tim Smith, stated in response that mayor Henry might be lying about the numbers, or is misleading “the public putting his election ahead of the truth,” according to News Sentinel.
Ruth Girma, a Purdue Fort Wayne student who has been living in Fort Wayne for more than 10 years, said that Fort Wayne is safe, and she did not need to worry about safety like she would when she was living in Chicago. She said that she had called the police in the past and the police officers responded efficiently by getting to where they needed to be on time and being very kind, patient and empathetic.
“To my knowledge I think that the crime rate in Fort Wayne is pretty low. There are some crimes here and there, but it is nothing compared to other big cities,” Girma said.
According to the Uniform Crime Reports released by the FBI, the crime rates in Chicago are higher than Fort Wayne. The city of Chicago, with a population of about 2.7 million, registered 27,357 reports of violent crimes – 563 of them were murder and nonnegligent manslaughter. Fort Wayne had 1,024 reports of violent crimes, including 40 for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, in a city of about 260,000.
Girma said that it is good to have extra precaution and adding more safety personnel in Fort Wayne will make people feel that they are living in a safe area. She said that this new budget will improve the safety of Fort Wayne.
“Anytime the police department gets more money, it allows the police to do more things and to do the things they’re already doing in a much better way. So, more money always helps,” said Trent Ruble, a Purdue Fort Wayne police officer.
Officer Trent gave some insights on the money allocation among the different departments in the city. “Since the city only has a certain amount of money and the other city departments have their needs as well, without knowing those needs, it is difficult to say if the police department is getting the right amount of money,” said Ruble.
Other than public safety, the 2020 Fort Wayne City budget is mainly focusing on neighborhood infrastructure and parks. Out of the $36.3 million that constitute the total budget for infrastructure projects, $23.9 million is allocated for neighborhood infrastructure projects, $1.4 million for bridges, $8 million for sidewalks and alleys, and $3 million for city park projects.
“We’re a city on the move with unprecedented momentum and excitement. By working together, 2020 will be an outstanding year in Fort Wayne as we strive for excellence in providing the best services possible to the public,” mayor Henry said.
Fort Wayne has achieved national recognition in 2019, having the lowest cost of living for four years in a row, according to Niche. It is also ranked as the 12th best run city and 10th best real estate market in the country by WalletHub, and 40th best place to live in the country by U.S. News & World Report, according to the City of Fort Wayne website.