Taking critical aim at a recent ad aired by Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, Republican challenger Tim Smith said Wednesday he wants to have an honest conversation about crime in the Summit City.
“We’re not having it because of the commercials that Tom is putting out,” Smith said, speaking to a group of Republicans at Allen County GOP headquarters.
The ad Smith was referring to first aired on local TV stations and online Tuesday. In it, Henry accuses Smith of “using misleading numbers to stoke fear about safety,” before stating that Fort Wayne’s violent crime rate is at its lowest since 1988.
Henry also states that public safety spending is up 35%, that 20 new police officers have been hired and homicides are down nearly 50%. Henry also cites a 2012 study from InsuranceProviders.com that ranked Fort Wayne as the fifth-safest city in the U.S.
“We know that Tim Smith’s just making stuff up to distort the truth,” Henry said in the ad. “And that’s the real crime.”
In his remarks, Smith compared Fort Wayne with Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city of about 198,829 people. That city, Smith said, had nine murders in 2018, while Fort Wayne had 46, making Fort Wayne an outlier among similar-sized cities. Fort Wayne’s police staff levels are one-third below the average recommended by the FBI, he added.
Smith has repeatedly said violent crime in Fort Wayne has risen 17% since Henry took office in 2008. A document provided Wednesday by the Smith campaign states that Henry’s 50% figure is “literally a made up number” and that compared with January to September 2018, homicides declined 34.48% during the same period this year.
Smith also criticized what he said is a lack of diversity in Henry’s administration, stating that of the 100 highest-paid city employees, only five are women.
In a statement Wednesday, Henry said Smith “will say anything to get elected” and reiterated his assertion that Fort Wayne is a safe city in which to live, work and play.
“While (Smith) is running a negative campaign, I’m focused on the safety of all Fort Wayne residents – today, tomorrow and for years to come. My opponent distorts the facts,” Henry said. “In reality, violent crime is down; homicides are down; public safety spending is up; and we have a full complement of police officers. I’m focused on the now and firmly support our officers who put their lives on the line every day.”