INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly half way through the year, Indianapolis has seen record-breaking murder numbers, but the first six months of 2020 have also seen a 10% drop in overall crime.
Some of the crime stats make sense. With many stores forced to close for several months, larceny logically went down 12%. With more people ordered to stay at home, burglary also dropped 20%.
While the nonviolent crime numbers are understandable, no one can answer why so many people have been killed this year.
Responding to deadly shootings on the east side, the west side and every place in between, 104 homicides in less than six months has left Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers working those scenes busy and admittedly confused.
“It’s very frustrating. We’re just in a position where we’re going nonstop. We’re having people shot,” said IMPD Capt. Larry Wheeler.
“It’s just hard to explain the difference in violent crime being down, but that one area,” said IMPD Major Harold Turner. “I wish I could sit here and give you the answer as to what’s going on. I cannot.”
So far this year homicides are up 48% over last year, while at the same time overall crime is down 10%.
“You know it’s hard to understand why these things are occurring and we understand our homicide numbers are way up right now, but overall things are down,” said IMPD officer Genae Cook.
In fact aside from homicides, violent crime has declined nearly across the board with rape reports down 24%, robbery down 11% and aggravated assaults down 7.5%.
“You have a lot of people whose daily routines are much different now,” said IUPUI Criminal Justice Professor Jeremy Carter. “Certainly if you think about a year ago in June it’s much different than right now in June with what’s going on.”
Carter believes with so much uncertainty this year, it makes sense that crime stats would prove hard to predict, but the spike in homicides needs to remain the focus.
“I mean every crime is a crime and every victim is a victim, so I’m not trying to play down the other crimes, but as far as Indy is concerned homicides and non-fatal shootings are at the forefront of what the community needs to recognize,” said Carter.
Carter said year-to-year crime comparisons can be misleading, and that’s especially true this year. The causes of the increase in murders relies on numerous conditions that may include people dealing with more stress in their lives and having less distractions.
Poor social economic conditions in many neighborhoods is also a long term problem that began long before the issues associated with 2020.
“We need to not think about this as a police issue. This is a community issue that needs to be fixed a different way,” said Carter.
The spike in homicides is presenting some unforeseen challenges for IMPD because homicide detectives are being overworked, but it’s not always possible to slide in other officers to help investigate those cases.