Analysis of data shows disparity in IMPD’s solve rate

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 22, 2016) -- An analysis of five years of IMPD homicide solve rate data shows that detectives find answers to a substantial higher percentage of killings when the victim is white as opposed to black.

Statistics obtained by our media partners at the Indy Star indicate that since January 1, 2011, approximately 86 percent of all white victim homicides and 48 percent of all African American victim homicides were considered cleared by the IMPD Homicide Branch.

Last year there were 144 criminal homicides in IMPD’s jurisdiction. Of those, 115 of the victims were black; 41 were white.

The reasons for the disparity in solve rates are varied, but one veteran homicide detective spoke for many of his colleagues as he reflected on the frustration felt when it comes to unraveling a murder mystery.

“Someone obviously knows what happened and they have not come forward yet,” said Det. Bob Flack.

That frustration is also felt by the families who face first the shock of a loved one’s violent death and then the disappointment as the case drags on sometimes for years without an answer.

“I really wouldn’t consider it racism or anything like that,” said Brian Franklin whose brother was killed in 2011. “I would just consider it a lack of police involvement. The detective has a caseload on his table like this. The dude sitting next to him he got a caseload like this,” he said, spreading his hands three feet apart.

Franklin’s mother Valentina Watkins expressed her frustration with the unsolved murder of her son Timothy Hathaway in an email to FOX59 News last fall.

“Now I understand that there has been a lot of killing and crimes going on in this fair city of ours,” she wrote. “But it is really sad, that if you are not popular or very well known in this city, and BLACK you have no concern of ever finding who killed my son because not only was he black, but he had a troubled past, but it still doesn’t matter what you all think, he was still my son, a father, a brother, an uncle, etc. Had a family that loved and still do love and miss him.”

But even as Watkins’ own surviving son admits, racism cannot explain the disparity in solve rates.

A hiring freeze during the administration of then-Mayor Greg Ballard in 2011 stripped down IMPD’s manpower ranks to crisis levels, leaving officers scrambling to cover basic calls for assistance, reducing the manpower and experience of veteran investigators.

In 2014, half of all aggravated assault victims refused to cooperate with detectives as police contend a lack of input and tips from friends, family and acquaintances stymie investigations.

With approximately 80 percent of both victims and suspects possessing criminal histories, those involved in crimes have the expertise or legitimate illegal reasons to hide their participation.

A national distrust of authority in the wake of several police shootings and abuse of power scandals and a culture of non-cooperation make it difficult for the overwhelmingly white IMPD force to engender help from the community when investigating a murder.

According to IMPD statistics, approximately 25 percent of last year’s murders occurred as the result of drug dealing, a crime that flourishes underground and in the shadows among participants with vested and violent interests in covering up their participation and intimidating others into remaining silent.

IMPD Chief Troy Riggs has reemphasized the collection and analysis of data to better track violent crime in Indianapolis and in six focus area and to target individuals who may be taken off the streets in anticipation of crime.

The success of IMPD narcotics detectives and Violent Crimes Unit in cracking several established drug rings and arresting known felons has further destabilized the city’s criminal community, taking out established players who controlled their organizations and communities with violence and the threat of violence.