FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Friday’s shooting at Glenbrook Square Mall was the sort of event that could swing a close mayoral election if enough Fort Wayne voters feel unsafe because of it.

Early voting will start in 40 days, as Mayor Tom Henry (D) and Councilman Tom Didier (R) square off.

“Public safety almost always is a top issue in municipal elections,” said consultant and long-time Indiana political observer Andrew Downs, former director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue Fort Wayne.

“Events that cause fear will move safety up on the list of most important issues.” 

Mayor Tom Henry was quick Friday to reassure citizens that Fort Wayne was a safe place, despite the second shooting at the mall this summer.

He added the Fort Wayne Police Department was on top of the situation.

“The type of behavior displayed by the gunman has no place in our community,” said Henry. “Public safety has been and continues to be a top priority of my administration. Fort Wayne is among the safest mid-sized cities in the country.”

The most recent data on the city’s website (see below) showed a 0.38% dip in crime during the first seven months of 2023 compared to the same time in 2022. Fewer homicides, rapes and assaults were offset by a large spike in vehicle thefts and burglaries.

But voters aren’t always swayed if the facts don’t correspond to what they feel, said Mike Wolf, Professor and Chair of PFW’s Department of Political Science.

“Two shootings at a mall, and the chaos that results, brings legitimate, vivid, first-hand accounts of panic in a public place, even if the shootings themselves were interpersonal violence,” Wolf said, but added a disclaimer. “Unless a campaign can connect these shootings to a narrative, then they may not affect the mayoral race directly.”

Didier had praise for local law enforcement, thankful they were on the scene so quickly.

“It sounds like this was a dispute between two individuals and there may be an uncooperative witness. Many of my proposals regarding law enforcement are designed to bring our police officers closer to the community they serve so that witnesses are more cooperative in these circumstances. That way we can do more to bring those who choose to act violently in Fort Wayne to justice.”

VEH THEFT414305109+35.74%
HUMAN TRAFF01-1-100%
TOTAL3927 3942-15-0.38%
Crime Rate1488.141493.83per 100,000 people
Cumulative July 2023 Crime Statistics – FWPD