Violence in Elkhart a key battleground in prosecutor debate

ELKHART — Safety was the key point of contention between the candidates for Elkhart County Prosecutor during a debate leading up to next month’s primary election.

Martin McCloskey is challenging incumbent Vicki Becker for the Republican Party nomination for the office of prosecutor.

The candidates sparred for about 90 minutes Wednesday evening at the IU South Bend Elkhart Center, covering issues that included violent and non-violent crimes, crimes involving juveniles, gun laws and managing the prosecutor’s office.

McCloskey came out swinging, charging Elkhart as one of the most dangerous locations in the country.

“Elkhart is not as safe as it should be,” McCloskey said during opening remarks. “Elkhart is the most violent city in Indiana. This makes me mad, and it should make you mad too.”

McCloskey reiterated that assertion several times during the debate. He cited statistics from the FBI’s uniform crime report, noting Elkhart is the 23rd most violent city in the United States.

BECKER DISPUTES DATA

Becker disputed the information about 45 minutes into the debate, calling the statistics inaccurate.

“If we’re going to be talking about statistics, we need to be talking apples to apples, not apples versus pomegranates,” Becker said.

She pointed out McCloskey’s data came from the FBI’s 2016 report, reflecting a dangerous year in which the county recorded 16 homicides. The number fell to four in 2017, she said.

Becker also noted the FBI data started at cities with populations of more than 50,000 and didn’t include cities of slightly smaller populations with larger violent crime records.

McCloskey rebutted by saying the 2016 report is the latest report available and looked at a variety of violent crimes on a per-capita basis.

“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts,” he said.

Becker urged the audience then to explore the report on their own, saying Elkhart is not the most violent city in Indiana.

“I’m asking you not to be sheep. Ask the next logical question,” Becker said. “Don’t let them feed you something that’s not accurate and affect the way you see Elkhart.”

Becker is running for her first elected term as prosecutor. She took office after a caucus voted in late 2016 for her to succeed former Prosecutor Curtis Hill after he became Indiana Attorney General.

McCloskey is an attorney who previously served as an Elkhart County commissioner and as a former police officer.

The primary election will be held Tuesday, May 8.

Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrose@goshennews.com or at 574-533-2151, ext. 316, or follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.

Source: http://www.goshennews.com/news/local_news/violence-in-elkhart-a-key-battleground-in-prosecutor-debate/article_0eafbf9d-8685-591c-bb24-53b8cc50e000.html