INDIANAPOLIS – In the first 13 days of 2021, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) has already investigated nine deadly shootings, with five people killed Tuesday alone.
“I’m disgusted by it, our detectives are disgusted by it, and our community is disgusted by it,” Christopher Bailey, Assistant Chief of Police for IMPD, told CBS4 News on Wednesday. “Five lives lost yesterday on top of what we saw in 2020. It’s just unacceptable.”
Rev. Charles Harrison, Senior Pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church and Board President of the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition said, “It’s certainly very concerning we are already starting 2021 off like we did 2020.”
The latest gun violence follows a record-breaking year in the city, where IMPD detectives investigated 245 homicides.
City leaders emphasize Indianapolis is not exempt from trends of increasing gun violence and homicides plaguing metropolitan areas and major cities across the country.
“If it were something particular to Indianapolis, I think we would hope that we would be able to point to whatever that reason is. Right now we’re having a lot of trouble pinpointing what that is,” said Bailey.
“I think coronavirus played a part in some of that stirring people’s emotions, mental health issues, domestic violence,” said Bailey.
Bailey noted the problem of gun violence is affecting the city as a whole and will take the efforts of the entire community, not just law enforcement, to help work toward solutions. He explained law enforcement is just one part of the criminal justice system working to hold those accountable who commit these violent crimes.
“We have to ask our prosecutors, our judges, community corrections, our prison system, what are they doing to help us with this issue of gun violence,” said Bailey.
“It can’t just be our problem,” he explained, “we’re the first part of this criminal justice system. We make the arrest but after that, we have to have strong prosecution, we have to have tough sentences, and I’m not talking about for low-level offenses, I’m talking about for people who commit crimes with guns they’re not supposed to have.”
“We have catch and release, a lot of individuals being arrested and right back on the streets so we have to look at that particularly with the violent felons,” said Harrison. “What’s different in 2021 than 2009 is we didn’t have all of these violent felons being released onto the streets and then they’re re-offending and re-committing violence.”
Bailey said in addition to needing appropriate sentences for violent criminals, IMPD is looking at the operations of their own department, which consists of 1700 officers, and making changes that will better suit the community and also build off of successes from 2020.
“We certainly have some significant challenges. The police department will look at our operations top to bottom, be laser-focused on particular hot spots driven by data, and focused on the small number of people within those areas who have the propensity to commit violence or have committed violence.”
Bailey said despite investigators, particularly detectives in homicide, working diligently on these cases, many go unsolved due to a lack of cooperation from people in the community with information on the crimes.
“What I want people to know is, those who work homicide choose to be there. No one forces them to do that job and so seeing the worst scenes day after day after day is something they choose to do because they have a calling to service their community and they do it well,” he said.
“But a lot of times these investigations rely upon the community’s cooperation and we don’t see a lot of that in a lot of these cases,” said Bailey. “There’s some examples of recent cases where people know exactly what happened and either them or their families are reluctant to let them participate in the investigation.”
“I understand why, I get it, but at the end of the day it’s their communities that are suffering from that lack of cooperation because killers are running free in the neighborhood,” said Bailey.
Bailey said a goal of IMPD is to continue improving community relations by working as a department and also alongside community leaders and outreach groups.
“I think the one thing we need to do better at is coordinating the efforts that community is doing and law enforcement is doing so that we have more of a city-wide strategy as these individuals and groups move from neighborhood to neighborhood,” Harrison told CBS4 News.
“The work doesn’t stop, and obviously these shootings and murders have not stopped, and so if we’re gonna wrap our hands around it we’re gonna have to look at this from a holistic perspective,” Bailey said. He said with more than 360 square miles to cover, officers cannot be everywhere at once, which is why community cooperation is crucial.
“The issue is so complex and so multi-layered. There are a lot of factors that are driving the violence in the community which is gonna require the whole community working together,” said Harrison.
“Most of these homicides go unsolved so there’s no real justice and closure for these families,” he shared.
“I think that’s why there’s so much frustration in the community right now because people are being killed, families are being impacted by it, but then nobody is really being brought to justice,” he shared, “we’ve gotta get past the cold silence and for people to come forward and give information so that we can bring individuals to justice.”
He said he feels there needs to be an emphasis on reducing the number of shootings and stabbings that lead to more murders and looking at short-term solutions before jumping to long-term ones.
“We gotta stop the bleeding and the only way is that we gotta focus on that and then we can go back and focus on long-term solutions,” Harrison shared.
“This is devastating on families where you have mothers and fathers having to bury their child,” he said, “children who have lost a parent, and for some families, they have had multiple family members that have been killed by the violence.”
Bailey said overall crime numbers are down, but the most ‘egregious crime,’ gun violence, is up, and the one people should be ‘most concerned’ about right now.
“I’m still hopeful for the future because feeling otherwise doesn’t do anybody any good. We should all be hopeful for the future,” Bailey said. “Law enforcement is gonna continue to do our part. We’re gonna change some things up in 2021 that we hope can build on some of our successes from 2020. We hope have an impact for the rest of the year,” he said.
CBS4 reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett for an interview on Wednesday. He was unavailable but shared a statement.
“Our hearts break with every violent incident and every life lost in our city, and our thoughts are with the families of tonight’s victims. All of us—IMPD, violence reduction teams, neighborhood and faith leaders, and residents—must continue to work together to stop the cycle of violence and heal our community.”– Mayor Joe Hogsett