Police note spike in fatal heroin overdoses as they keep track of deadly 2016

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- There are 24 IMPD homicide detectives. So far this year, they’ve opened up at least 161 homicide investigations and determined 142 are murder as 2016’s killing rate is keeping pace with last year’s record.

But on an average of more than twice a day, a homicide detective is called to the scene of a death investigation in the city to decide if the demise of a citizen is natural, intentional or something else.

“They look at the nature of the run, the history of the address, the history of the people involved,” said Captain Craig Converse. “They look at what’s on the scene. We also coordinate with the crime lab and, of course, the Coroner’s office. We look at toxicology screens what actual drugs were in their system versus what was recovered and, of course, you can never rule out foul play.”

Converse said detectives have been called to 800 death and aggravated assault scenes thus far this year, a record workload for investigators.

Besides the homicides, which are defined as the intentional taking of the life of another, there have been 110 suicides, 30 critical incident deaths, which involved fatal police action shootings or deaths of offenders while in custody, 315 other deaths, which include SIDS cases, natural causes and accidents, and 156 aggravated assaults, which could result in death if serious enough.

Converse said one category has caught investigators by surprise.

“Its very clear we have a heroin epidemic in this country and in this city as well and we have a lot of overdose deaths,” he said. “More than any of us have ever seen.”

IMPD has investigated 150 fatal overdoses in 2016, which would likely be more if not for the recent deployment of the overdose antidote naloxone to police and EMS crews.

In the coming year, as IMPD boosts the number of new officers graduated from the academy and assigned to the street, it is hoped the department will be able to boost its homicide branch to combat what may be another record number of homicides.