INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – At the midway point in 2017, when Indianapolis was on its way to a new record for murder, there were 59 criminal homicides in the city.
This past weekend, at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, as Indianapolis stood at the halfway point to the next New Year’s Eve, the city’s murder total was 73.
There have been 222 non-fatal shootings so far this year, an increase of more than 10 percent over a year ago.
On January 1, as Mayor Joe Hogsett celebrated his first two years in office with another two to go, he expressed optimism that, “at the end of the day I hope that 2018 will be better than 2016 and 2017.”
The first half numbers of 2018 will certainly try the mayor’s optimism.
“We had a pretty terrible third and fourth quarter the last two years when it comes to violent crime. Specifically homicides,” said IMPD Commander Chris Bailey, “but we’re already looking forward to that by putting plans together, working with our federal partners, for what kind of enforcement things we can do in those months to be very visible, to push those numbers down, because if we can have impact in our third and fourth quarter, I think we can see an overall reduction in our violent crime.”
Bailey said the department’s homicide detectives have been clearing and solving cases at a 75 percent rate due to increased public cooperation and the recent changing nature of murder in the city.
“We haven’t seen the amount of the number of multiple deaths that we have seen in one particular incident like we have seen in previous years,” he said, recalling the spate of drug-related killings that often result in two or more deaths. “These are one-on-one conflict arguments situations, domestic situations, that turn deadly. These are heat of the moment type situations that I think have pushed our numbers higher than they have been in the past. A lot of them are arguments that just turn to gunfire and that’s difficult for the police to do something about.”
In the past when drug gangs feuded and killed their enemies, long term intensive investigations wrapped up several cases at once. Two years ago, pharmacy robberies were all the rage in Indianapolis.
Now, with massive drug gangs sidelined and pharmacy stick-ups on the wane, new violence associated with social media, from virtual disputes that get out of hand to Craig’s List robbery murders, have changed the types of cases IMPD is being asked to solve or preclude.
Bailey said across the board crime is uniformly down in Indianapolis with robberies off by 20 percent this year, a trend that stretches back to 2016.
Mayor Hogsett’s recent appointment of a Community Violence Reduction Coordinator and the announcement this week of more than $2 million in crime prevention grants available to community groups fighting crime at the grassroots level signifies not only recognition but a strategy by the city to partner with residents in battling crime in the neighborhood.
“Oh, I can tell you just around the corner about three murders that we have walked out on because they had to wait for certain things before they could move the bodies,” said Allen Ewing as he stood in the front yard of his home in the 3700 block of Kenwood Avenue, literally around the corner and down the street from a recent murder at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.
Ewing lives in the middle of one of Indianapolis’ most violent zip codes, 46208, but sees signs of hope all up and down his street.
“A lot more people concerned with the upkeep of their property. New young people are moving into the neighborhood and keeping the grass cut, repairs done, a lot of the houses that were left abandoned are now being resold and fixed up, so that helps,” he said. “Someone will move in and get rid of the hedges and the overflow of grass and stuff and fix it up and want to be a part, people want neighborhoods because that’s what we grew up in, you can’t have a village if you don’t have teepees.”