York's New Position Official, Addresses Record-Tying Homicide Rate

By Rachel Martin - 21Alive

December 4, 2013 Updated Dec 4, 2013 at 12:11 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – It’s official, Fort Wayne City Council approved the ordinance creating the new position of Director of Public Safety.

Fort Wayne City Council unanimously passed the ordinance Tuesday night, enacting Rusty York’s new position. Mayor Tom Henry appointed York to the position last Tuesday. Although, technically, York won’t begin his duties until January 1, 2014, York says he’s already begun working. York says he met with Fort Wayne Fire Chief Amy Biggs Monday, and plans to meet with Homeland Security Director Bernie Beier later in the week.

However, Council’s passage didn't go without a minor interrogation of the former Police Chief. Council members asked York about the rising homicide rate, which unofficially reached 44 Tuesday, and budgetary issues.

“We always have to look at better ways of doing things. We have to look at more areas of revenue, advantages we have from the Federal Government that we can use. I think it’s become more than what a Police Chief or Fire Chief can handle,” said York.

York shared with council that the U.S. Department of Justice offered the Fort Wayne Police Department (FWPD) a $1.25 million Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, which will be used to hire and train, and go toward the salary and benefits for, 10 new police officers in 2015.

York says his immediate concern is to help control and eliminate the city's crime rate, but he has some long term safety issues and strategies he'd like to address.

"We've got the $17 million state-of-the-art communications center. We have to bring more partners into that. [Like] The ambulance system—I think we need to start talking to them about using that dispatch center to make it more effective for their own operations,” he said.

York gave the example of the 911 call center partnering with IPFW, and says New Haven’s Police Department has expressed some interest in partnering.

As far as the record-tying homicide rate, York says he's not proud of the number of homicides, but says crime in other areas has declined. He says it can be difficult for law enforcement to cover all areas of the city at once, which is why he urges more witnesses to speak up. York does think, however, that training and adding 22 new officers in 2014, and 10 more in 2015, will help reduce the city’s violence.

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