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INDIANAPOLIS — With just a few hours left in 2020, IMPD detectives have investigated 244 homicides this year.

The most recent killing took place this morning on the city’s northeast side.

Tracks in the snow show where a man crashed after being shot behind the wheel.  Police say the victim was visiting family on east 39th street when he was killed.

The victim was identified by family as Steven Fields Junior.

“It’s heartbreaking.  It’s devastating. This has been an unprecedented year,” said Aaron Williams with the City of Peace Coalition.

Aaron Williams is upset by the dramatic increase in murders this year, while Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett believes COVID may be to blame.

Hogsett issued a written statement that read, “The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the vital work of our community violence reduction teams and beat policing, while increasing economic and mental stress for already-marginalized populations. Combined with easy access to guns, these factors have contributed to record deaths.”

“The argument somewhat is valid, but it’s not acceptable,” said Williams.  “COVID isn’t going away anytime soon, so to use that as a crutch is something we should not allow to happen.”

Mayor Hogsett also wrote, “Indianapolis has unfortunately not been exempt from the trends of increased gun violence and homicides plaguing metropolitan areas across the country.”

“More cities than not are seeing an increase in homicide,” said IUPUI criminal justice professor Jeremy Carter.  “It’s hard to explain.”

Carter says given the financial and social impacts of COVID, it’s impossible to predict how the spike in homicide numbers in 2020 will translate moving into a new year.

“No projections or long term anything can really be drawn from these numbers,” said Carter.

“Some mother, some father, sister and brother started this year with a loved one and they don’t have them,” said Williams.  “That’s something we just can’t allow to happen.  So, what we’re looking for is more leadership.”

As a comparison, in 2019 the city finished with 172 homicides.   The previous all-time record was 179 homicides set in 2017.

The mayor concluded his statement by writing:

“The men and women of IMPD, our outreach teams, and community partners have done an admirable job under challenging circumstances.  We must recognize that each life lost leaves behind scores of family members, friends, and acquaintances who must grapple with the trauma of losing a loved one too soon. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, we will continue to invest in best practices, guided by national models and adapted for Indianapolis neighborhoods, and lock arms with law enforcement, community violence interrupters, and local stakeholders to stop the cycles of violence.”