Last night, during public comment, The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Eric Spoonmore passionately advocated for improved public safety before the Bloomington Common Council. He provided a sobering assessment of the situation highlighted by the shortage of police and the uptick in crime.
HERE is the video of his speech with the transcript below.
Eric Spoonmore Statement to the Bloomington City Council
Good evening, Council. I’m Eric Spoonmore, President of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.
Over 80% of our members are small, locally owned enterprises. We also partner with our public-school corporations, numerous non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, local government, and many large corporate employers. We believe that membership in the Chamber is a statement that you care about our community, and you want Bloomington to thrive for generations to come. In other words, we recognize that our businesses and employers are instrumental in achieving the high quality of life that our residents deserve.
And so, the quality of life we all want is dependent upon our residents and visitors feeling safe in our community. And when I say safe, I don’t mean relatively safe. We need people to feel very safe. I know you’re aware of this….we’ve experienced a disturbing number of violent crimes over the past several months and weeks. Rapes, stabbings, shootings, arson, murders, attempted murders in broad daylight….these things simply cannot be tolerated under any circumstance. And ensuring the safety of the public is local government’s most important and fundamental role.
I also want to let you know that too many businesses in our community are having to commit substantial resources to protect their safety and to protect their property from damage related to vandalism and other illicit behaviors that are contributing to a general degradation of our quality of place. The Chamber of Commerce even keeps our front door locked during business hours because we have experienced too many situations that have put our staff and property at risk of harm. It’s sad to me that a Chamber of Commerce – of all places – has to keep the doors locked so that our staff feels safe. And we’re not the only enterprise taking these measures.
Numerous businesses are having to hire private security services, they’re installing security doors and expensive intercom systems and surveillance cameras to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. And the businesses aren’t just eating these costs – at the end of the day, they have to pass the cost on to the customers – they don’t want to do that, but that’s the only way they can stay in business. So, this is not a good situation – especially considering the 51% increase in local income tax that workers are all now paying largely to address public safety.
And so, I don’t know all the answers to addressing the very significant concerns we hear about perceived and actual safety in the community. But, I think we clearly need to look into some new crime prevention strategies. But, in the meantime, my first suggestion would be to employ the number of professional police officers that we need to provide effective public safety services. We used to have them, and I don’t know where they all went. Not too long ago, we had over a hundred sworn officers. And now we have somewhere around 80 and we need to make progress on getting back to where we were.
And then another suggestion – I appreciate the weekly reports on the number of city employees who have COVID, I know there’s a lot of diligent record keeping with that data and the staff works to distribute that information to the public very reliably each week. And so, I would also be interested in using that same model to generate a detailed weekly report that shows the progress we’re making on hiring police officers to address the current shortage. And so, I cannot emphasize enough that the business community is not just concerned – we are gravely concerned – that we do not have enough employed police officers protecting the safety of our community.
And then, finally, I would also suggest just more overall police visibility – day and night – especially in the high-traffic pedestrian areas. I’m sure there are community policing strategies that numerous other communities have used and do this effectively. There are a lot of theories about crime deterrence, but I think even the most progressive criminology experts generally agree that there is no better deterrent to violent, criminal behavior than knowing you will get caught in the act of doing it.
So, let’s do everything we can to prevent the kinds of reprehensible, violent crimes that occurred just last week in this city. If we want people to use public transportation, if we want people to visit our city to spend their dollars here to support our businesses, and if we want our residents to enjoy our downtown and parks facilities with their families – they need to feel safe when engaging in those activities.
Please always keep public safety as your number one priority. Thank you.