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INDIANAPOLIS — As the final month of 2021 draws near, the city has experienced, yet again, its deadliest year.

It was only two hours into Friday that neighbors in The George Apartment Homes were woken up to the sound of gunshots outside. It was in the 5800 block of Sebring Court that police discovered 24-year-old Dezmond King shot to death, marking the city’s 245th homicide of the year.

Police were not able to make it through the weekend before responding to three other deadly incidents.

On Saturday, neighbors in the 3100 block of Harlan Street, a residential area near East Troy Avenue and South Keystone Avenue, woke up to news that 47-year-old Vaughn Isom was found shot to death inside a vehicle. Neighbors in the Pangea Hills Apartments complex also woke up that morning to the news that 42-year-old Jeffrey Herald was found shot to death in the 5400 block of Pleasant Hill Circle.

On Sunday, what started as a family disturbance ended with a 59-year-old Michael Langguth’s death in the 4700 block of Stoughton Court in Indianapolis’ Cobblestone Subdivision.

With those weekend homicides, 2021 became the deadliest year in the city’s history, with a month left to go.

“Seeing these different things and the way that people are resolving conflict is disheartening,” Genae Cook, a public information officer for IMPD said after the Sebring Court homicide. “People have to understand that you have to learn how to communicate with each other and you cannot communicate by using a weapon.” 

While at a Feed the Streets event near Frederick Douglass Park Saturday morning, Mayor Joe Hogsett addressed the record-breaking weekend, saying we have unprecedented levels of challenge as the result of the pandemic, most notably the gun violence that affects our community.

“We need to come together as one community to meaningfully address it, now the city is making unprecedented and record levels of investment in public safety,” Mayor Hogsett said.

Among those investments is $45 million over the next 3 years in community based, neighborhood-oriented crime prevention, crime reduction, crime interruption.

While at Saturday’s event, Mayor Hogsett said they are addressing the root causes of violence, which is impoverished communities and neighborhoods that have been underappreciated and disadvantaged.

“There’s no question there’s a direct correlation between people who have been historically marginalized or economically disadvantaged who turn to violence to resolve differences to try to provide opportunities for themselves,” Mayor Hogsett said.

Taking a deeper look into where the homicides happened

Taking a look at the communities where these homicides took place tells various stories.

We were able to take a look at the data on the 2020 census tract level. This is an area roughly equivalent to a neighborhood used by the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze populations. Each census tract contains a population of between 2,500 and 8,000 people.

The benefit of using census tracts to analyze data, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is that they are relatively permanent, though they do change over time.

Demographics of the Sebring Court homicide

The area where police found Dezmond King dead is located within Census Tract 3103.08. This 1.3 square mile tract of land is home to 3,438 people. Friday’s homicide was the first time people in this area have experienced a homicide since at least 2014.

The poverty rate for this area is 9.8%, about half the rate in Indianapolis. Of the 2,016 people over the age of 16 in the workforce, 48 are unemployed, for a 2% unemployment rate compared to the national average of 6%.

Demographics of the Harlan Street homicide

The area where police found Vaughn Isom dead in a vehicle is located within Census Tract 3803. This 1.4 square mile tract of land is home to 4,603 people. Since 2014, people living in this area have experienced twelve homicides, including a quadruple homicide in 2014.

The poverty rate for this area is 26.9%, about 1.5 times the rate in Indianapolis. Of the 3,313 people over the age of 16 in the workforce, 309 are unemployed, for a 9% unemployment rate compared to the national average of 6%.

Demographics of the Pleasant Hill Circle homicide

The area where Jeffrey Herald was found shot to death is located within Census Tract 3419.04. This .4 square mile tract of land is home to 2,365 people. This is the first time since at least 2014 that people living in this area have experienced a homicide.

The poverty rate for this area is 22%, about 25 percent higher than the rate in Indianapolis. Of the 1,500 people over the age of 16 in the workforce, 106 are unemployed, for a 7% unemployment rate compared to the national average of 6%.

Demographics of the Stoughton Court homicide

The area where Michael Langguth died is located within Census Tract 3101.08. This 2.5 square mile tract of land is home to 3,290 people. This is the second homicide people in this area have experienced since 2014.

The poverty rate for this area is 5.9 percent, about a third of the rate in Indianapolis. Of the 2,015 people over the age of 16 in the workforce, 59 are unemployed, for a 3% unemployment rate compared to the national average of 6%.

Comparing Indianapolis’ homicide rate to our neighbors

During Saturday’s event, Mayor Hogsett pointed out that Indianapolis is not the only community experiencing record violence.

The FBI reports homicides and non-negligent manslaughters climbed an estimated 29.4% to 21,570 in 2020, an increase of 4,901 over 2019.

By taking a look around Indiana, you can get a feel for how Indianapolis compares in its homicide rate. While Chicago has, by far, the most murders in the area, Indianapolis has the highest homicide rate.

“We’ve got to put the guns down, we’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of individuals who have no legal right to possess them and then hopefully with the community coming together, we’ll see a reduction,” said Mayor Hogsett.

The IMPD is expected to release full details about the homicides that have happened so far this year later this week. We will provide an updated look at Indianapolis’ homicide numbers when that report becomes available.