IMPD detectives search for connections between five murders

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Three crime scenes spread across the northeast side of Indianapolis have homicide detectives searching for connections between five murders that have left three more people hospitalized.

At 78 killings for the year, Indy's murder tally far outpaces last year’s record setting number as non-fatal shootings, rapes and robberies also skyrocketed in the first quarter of 2016.

“I have been very clear that we’re gonna have good weeks and we’re gonna have bad weeks,” said IMPD Chief Troy Riggs. “We had two weeks in June where we didn’t have a homicide at all, then we show up and we get to July and we’re averaging one per day or one every other day early on.”

The recent spate of violence on the northeast side began July 19 with the killings of three people at the Lodge Apartments in the 3400 block of Admar Court.

The killer or killers left a baby alive.

This past Monday, a victim was found shot to death in the 4400 block of Primrose Avenue and a man was arrested running away nearby.

He was taken to Eskanazi Hospital for treatment after fighting with police.

Wednesday night, in the same area, three people were found shot, one of them dead at the scene, and detectives are searching for any connections and evidence linking the cases.

“We believe that two individuals, two out of 900,000 residents of this community, are responsible for committing more than 10 percent of the homicides,” said Riggs Wednesday just hours before his city’s murder tally climbed by two. “76 people have lost their lives in Indianapolis this year and I can tell you if it weren’t for a couple of significant arrests, that number would be much higher right now.”

One of those suspects is Jonathan Cruz, due in court Friday morning, to face charges for three so-called “purge” killings in mid-May as investigators are trying to determine if he can be linked to any other unsolved eastside murders this spring.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced this week he would seek the death penalty against Cruz.

At 78, Indianapolis’ murder total is ten ahead of last year’s record IMPD pace.

There have been at least 283 non-fatal shootings in 2016, approximately 50 more than at the same time last year.

First quarter statistics reported to the Major Cities Chiefs Associations show rape and robbery also climbed in Indianapolis in 2016 while aggravated assaults showed an inexplicable severe drop off even as more victims are surviving gunshot wounds.

Those numbers show that 143 rapes were reported in the first quarter of this year as compared to 130 during the same time period in 2015.

Robbery cases increased from 719 to 992 during the first three months of this year.

Non-fatal shootings, in those early winter months, rose from 82 to 114, yet, aggravated assaults, which should be expected to keep pace with non-fatal shootings, showed a marked decrease of 963 compared to 1385 during the same quarter last year.

IMPD has been increasingly stymied since 2013 to compile, reconcile and report timely crime statistics to the FBI and the public leaving residents and officers unable to determine, aside from homicide and shooting incidents, whether or not Indianapolis is a safer place or the numbers are simply more accurate.

Those numbers are important benchmarks for the department to paint an accurate picture of the city’s relative safety as well as a key factor in Indianapolis’ ability to apply for and receive crime fighting grants from the federal government, an area in which IMPD has been significantly deficient.

Doubts were raised about IMPD’s previous statistics tracking format under former Public Safety Director Frank Straub during the Greg Ballard administration when an ill-fated decision was made to scrap the department’s reporting and computer aided dispatch system in favor of an untried revolutionary $13 million project by a company called Interact.

During Riggs’ tenure as public safety director it became apparent through missed deadlines and non-performance standards that the Interact project was a cumbersome unworkable non-user friendly failure that could not deliver on its grandiose promises.

Interact’s purchase by Harris Communications did not improve the proposed system which led to the city’s dissolution of the contract last December and the immediate pursuit of legal remedies to refund part of the multi-million dollar expenditure.

The failed project’s software and hardware are virtually unusable to the city.

IMPD’s ability to provide timely statistics, accurate or not, coincides with the failed Interact project though some officials concede the previous police crime statistical compilation system, partially reliant on hand reconciling of figures by light duty officers, was also suspect.

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