INDIANAPOLIS — The City of Indianapolis is on track to shatter its overall homicide record set in 2018.
IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey says the upward trend started at the end of 2019 and it's continued into the new year.
"We started to see this increase in November and December of last year and it carried into January and February," Bailey said. "In March and April, it leveled out to where we were at the year before and in May we saw those numbers skyrocket."
IMPD has worked 80 homicides between January 1 and May 26, 2020, compared to 53 in the same period for 2019. That's more than a 50% increase in just the first five months of the year.
Indianapolis saw a four-year streak of rising homicides, first breaking the 1996 record in 2015 when 144 people were murdered. That record was broken again in 2016, 2017 and for a fourth time in 2018 when the city saw 158 criminal homicides.
Last year, those numbers finally appeared to be making a turn in the right direction.
“We’re extremely disappointed in where we’re at," Bailey said.
Overall Crime Is Actually Down
While the homicide numbers continue to go up, crime rates in Indianapolis have actually gone down.
"Overall crime in our city is down, and it doesn’t feel that way because we see this violence," Bailey said. "I know that our robberies are way down and our property crime is way down."
So what's changed? That's still unclear.
As summer begins each year, IMPD always tells us to anticipate an increase in general crime. But with COVID-19 and the lock-down orders across the state, police are still analyzing what impact they've had and will continue to have on the overall crime rate.
"We always see an increase in crime as the weather starts to warm up – but as far as whether we can directly relate these things to COVID itself, that’s something that will have to be studied," Bailey said.
According to preliminary numbers provided by IMPD, crime in Indianapolis is down almost 11% so far this year.
Even the number of non-fatal shootings appears to be down. Bailey said the last numbers they received from their independent researchers showed they had 25 fewer non-fatal shooting victims right now, than this time last year. The fatal shooting victim count is up 27.
He says its the first time the city's non-fatal shooting numbers have not been up at the same time as the homicide numbers.
“The one piece that we can’t get our head wrapped around is this murder thing," Bailey said. "A lot of times the difference between a non-fatal shooting and a murder is bullet placement and access to medical care."
The Innocent Victims
It's not just the crime rates and homicide numbers so far this year that are troubling law enforcement, the victim pool continues to get younger.
"We see how it’s impacting our young people, which is even more troubling in some aspects, especially when you have innocent kids who are where they should be – in the safety of their home – who are being hit by stray bullets. And that’s due to the reckless behavior of people with guns."
On Tuesday night a 10-month-old was struck by a stray bullet, and that wasn't the first innocent victim.
That infant is expected to survive, but 8-year-old Rodgerick Payne and 16-year-old Nya Mae weren't so lucky.
Rodgerick was sitting in his living room on North Tacoma Avenue on March 31 when a stray bullet came through his window and killed him.
Nya was riding in the car with her family near the intersection of 38th Street and North Arlington Avenue on May 3 when a stray bullet came through the vehicle and killed her.
"People should be safe inside their houses, our children should be safe on their porches, playing in their yards – that should be the case here and everywhere else and in some of our neighborhoods it's not," Bailey said. "That’s what we’re working to do each and every day – by focusing our attention on those small people, places and activities that contribute to this kind of violence."
How IMPD Is Stepping Up — And How You Can Help
"We're coming for you."
That's the message Bailey has for the city's violent criminals — especially as the weather warms up and the pandemic restrictions are lifted.
"If you are carrying a gun illegally in this city, at some point you are going to get stopped and you’re going to be detained or arrested by police," he said. "It has to be that way. You cannot indiscriminately wreak havoc in our neighborhoods and not expect that there is going to be a response from law enforcement."
"We’ve always been focused on violence — even during the COVID — but you’re going to see more and more activity from our law enforcement officers in Marion County as we work to try to stop some of this violence," Bailey said.
“We’re going to start ramping up our law enforcement efforts as it relates to violent crime."
But police need your help.
"We need people to step up, we need people to start talking to us and helping us solve these crimes," Bailey said. "In a couple of our cases we’ve got zero information and we know there are people out there who know who pulled the trigger on these cases and they refuse to come forward and that’s shameful – that’s shameful – and its unacceptable in a civilized society."
"Some of that is on us," Bailey admits. "We have to build better relationships in our community too. Those most impacted by violence have the most distrust in law enforcement and we have to own that part on us to help build those strong relationships so that we can work together to help solve this problem."
If you have information that could help solve one of these cases, police urge you to contact IMPD or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-TIPS. Your call may remain anonymous.