Indy’s 100th murder leaves Mayor Hogsett hoping to ‘turn a corner’

Police at scene on May 2, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Thursday morning, when IMPD homicide detectives walked up on their 100th murder of 2018 in the 7800 block of Darien Court, it put the city one month ahead of last year’s pace to a record criminal homicide total.

Last year, it wasn’t until September 20 that Indianapolis passed the murder milestone and that month was the second worst of the year for homicide in an annum that set an all-time high for Indianapolis.

If last year’s trend holds true in 2018, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s New Year’s Day prediction that the city’s murder tally would stabilize will quite likely falter.

“Gun violence particularly but criminal activity is just extraordinarily random,” said Hogsett minutes before he was set to walk from storefront-to-storefront this week in Perry Township’s Southern Plaza with IMPD Chief Bryan Roach to shake hands with shop owners and merchants. “I guess the only thing that you can count on is the random nature of gun violence and criminal activity.”

A dozen of this year’s 100 murders have taken place in the city’s northeast quadrant bordered by I-465 to the west and I-70 to the south.

It’s where murder victim number 100 fell before dawn just six hours after a woman was seriously wounded in a shooting at a gas station/convenience store nearby at East 42nd Street and North Franklin Road.

While the killings may be clustered, their origin is not.

Previously, Indianapolis experienced several years of multiple victim killings where two to four people would die.

The smashing of drug gangs through combined federal and IMPD investigations splintered those operations that as a matter of practice and intimidation killed more than once all at once.

This year, IMPD has investigated only two multiple victim killings and one of those, a shootout in the 2600 block of North Ethel Avenue earlier this month which took three lives, is still under investigation.

IMPD’s homicide clearance rate is 70 percent this year, including at least five arrests in three murders since Sunday.

Chief Bryan Roach attributed IMPD’s improved performance in investigating violent crime to semi-monthly meetings of the Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership which brings together state, local and federal authorities to share intelligence on recent crime trends and most wanted suspects and develop game plans for their arrest.

“There’s a number of names that have gone in front of that IVRP and each two weeks they talk about the lives that they’ve impacted on that list,” said Roach, “and we have meeting after meeting after meeting about those groups that want to help and it’s a matter of where’s that gap in identifying it and I think we’re getting closer and we’ll get there.”

U.S. Marshals got there Wednesday with the arrest of Antonio Jones, 24, at a far east side motel as he was sought for the August 8 murder of Roberto Cisneros in the 1600 block of Harlan Street.

Investigators tracked Jones’ associates, one of whom was discovered with two guns and was arrested on charges of being a serious violent felon in possession of firearms.

Hogsett is banking on huge infusions of funding into community crime prevention programs to attack violence at the grass roots level.

“We have a record amount of crime prevention money that has been designated for 2019, at last count I think it is over four million dollars,” said Hogsett. “That’s a record for our community of investments that we are making in not reacting to crime but rather pro-actively doing what we can to prevent crime from occurring, and it does take a while for that money to get into the pipeline, but I’m confident that the council will pass this budget and with that kind of allocation we will start seeing these numbers get reduced.”

Next month, the Central Indiana Community Foundation will dole out in excess of $2.5 million in city crime prevention funds to community groups.

Next week, six organizations will receive $50,000 grants recently released by the mayor’s office.

“Those grants are going to be operative by September 1,” said Hogsett. “We’re gonna have four to six different organizations doing community activities to help reduce the gun violence. I think that we’re gonna be able to turn a corner.”

“So now it’s not only the police department thinking about it,” said Roach. “You’ve got community people so those gears that you may not see the impact yet on our homicides, there’s so much stuff that wasn’t in place a year and a half, two years ago, that we’re working towards. Unfortunately we got here over several years and we’re starting to learn how do you bring the community into that? That is the biggest piece of this that I think that we’re missing and there’s so many resources out there and it’s just getting it in focus.”

As IMPD and the city rebound from several years of the mismanagement of police manpower, budget and community relations, the number of non-fatal shootings, murders and homicides are up by 10 percent in 2018, a far stretch beyond what Hogsett expected during an interview with FOX59 last January 1.

“I’m not saying an increase of two or three percent over the last couple of years is solving the problem,” said the mayor, “but I do think it is an indication that much of what we are doing is starting to have an effect and at the end of the day I hope that 2018 will be better than 2016 and 2017.”

At the two-thirds mark of the year, Hogsett, his police force and the city need a radical violent crime U-turn to fulfill the mayor’s New Year’s Day wish.