INDIANAPOLIS — As Indianapolis leaders look into how to reduce violence across the city, the Office of Public Health and Safety are looking to the root causes for violence.

The office says research has identified eight risk factors for becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence. These risk factors include:

  • 18-35 year olds
  • Black or Hispanic
  • Involvement in criminal justice
  • Unemployed or underemployed
  • Undereducated
  • Associated with a crew, group or gang
  • Previously shot or associated with gun activity
  • Have friends or family members who have been shot within the last year

Of these risk factors, the age, race, employment, education and shootings categories are able to be tracked using publicly-available data. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau along with IMPD shooting data, we were able to track where in the city people were at the most risk.

Research from the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) shows victims and suspects of homicides and shootings are primarily Black men between the ages of 18-34. This is despite Black citizens comprising only 29 percent of the overall population in Indianapolis.

Victim Age

The report from the NICJR shows about 62 percent of homicide victims or suspects and 60 percent of shooting victims or suspects were between the ages of 18-34. By taking a look into data from the latest American Community Survey, we were able to identify the areas with the highest concentrations of people in this age range.

One of the highest concentrations of people in that age range is Census Tract 3910, within Indianapolis’ downtown neighborhood. Of the 6,323 people living in this area, 4,855 are within the risk age range.

This area experienced seven homicides in 2021, with 20 non-fatal shootings taking place through the beginning of August. Of the non-fatal shootings in this area, the majority of the victims were 18-years-old.

The deadliest area of the city, Census Tract 3308 within Indianapolis’ Far Eastside neighborhood, experienced 10 homicides in 2021, with 12 non-fatal shootings through the beginning of August 2021.

Of the 3,816 people who call this area home, an estimated 832 are between the age of 18 and 34. The majority of the non-fatal shooting victims were 23-years-old.

Victim Race

The report from the NICJR also found 77 percent of victims and suspects in homicides and shootings were Black, despite making up 29 percent of the overall population in Indianapolis. Using data from the American Community Survey, we were able to identify areas in the city with a higher Black population.

Census Tract 3302.02, within Indianapolis’ Far Eastside neighborhood, is predominantly Black. Of the 11,717 people who live in this area, around 6,794 are Black.

This area experienced one homicide in 2021 along with nine non-fatal shootings by the beginning of August. Of the non-fatal shooting victims, eight were Black. The homicide victim was also Black.

In comparison, the deadliest area of the city, one census tract away from 3302.02 is also predominately Black. Of the 3,816 people living in this area, 2,187 are Black.

The non-fatal shooting victims in this area are all Black. The homicide victims in this area are also all Black.

Employment

The OPHS pointed out unemployment or underemployment as a risk factor for either becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence. Employment data from 2021 shows the areas in Indianapolis with the highest unemployment rate.

The area in the city with the highest unemployment rate is Census Tract 3601.02 located within the Arlington Woods neighborhood. The average unemployment rate for this area is 60 percent. Of the 961 people over the age of 16 in the workforce, 572 are unemployed.

This area saw three non-fatal shootings as of early August 2021 and two homicides through the end of 2021.

In comparison, the deadliest area of Indianapolis has an unemployment rate of 25 percent. Of the 1,615 people in the workforce, 405 are unemployed.

Education

The OPHS also says under-education is also a risk factor. Using data from the American Community Survey, we were able to plot out where in Indianapolis had the highest percentage of people without a high school diploma.

The data shows Census Tract 3424, located within Indianapolis’ Maywood neighborhood, has the highest percentage of people without a high school degree. 49.8 percent of adults aged 25+ are not high school graduates.

However, this area did not experience any homicides in 2021 or non-fatal shootings as of early August 2021.

In comparison, 22.6 percent of adults in the deadliest area of the city are not high school graduates. This comes to 401 adults. Only 36.8 percent of adults in this area have attained education higher than high school or equivalency.

Working to interrupt violence

The OPHS is actively working to help those people who are at high risk of becoming a victim or perpetrators of violence. Through the organization’s Indy Peace Fellowship, which attempts specific intervention with the most violent people in Indianapolis.

When applying for the fellowship, the organization asks potential fellows about their experience with the risk factors in order to connect them with the right resources. Lauren Rodriguez, director of the Office of Public Health & Safety, says they hope this will help prevent the crimes from happening in the first place.

 “It’s not that instead of arresting they’re going to get a life coach, it’s not how that works. 43:06 It’s what can we do before you even get to that point? Or, if you’ve already been in that situation before, how can we prevent you from going back to that situation? It’s breaking the cycles of violent crime, it’s breaking the cycles of poverty, it’s breaking the cycles of distrust in government and the communities and making sure that we’re getting there and showing them they have people supporting them and caring about them.”

Lauren Rodriguez, Director, Office of Public Health & Safety

Rodriguez says they are working to find the long-term sustaining programming or ideas or concepts that have already been implemented in the community. They hope to build on them to make the community stronger and get at those root issues.

While the organization uses the shooting data from the IMPD to place outreach workers and interruptors, they take fellows from anywhere in the city that needs it. As evidenced by the mapping data for the risk areas, this is due to areas other than where the most homicides or shootings are happening needing the help.

“We get referrals from everywhere and we don’t want to say ‘oh well, we’re only going to take from this zip code or from that zip code’ because we don’t, we can’t, determine ahead of time. We can’t predict where the fellows are going to be coming from,” said Rodriguez.

The Indy Peace Fellowship started in March along with the interrupter program. It lasts anywhere from 12-18 months depending on the individual. However, if the fellow still needs help, they won’t turn them away.

Just because you’re wanting help at one point doesn’t mean that you’re gonna want to continue to get that help right. 

“Some people they like the help in the beginning and then they want to take it from there on their own, and that’s perfectly fine and we will help you along your journey,” said Rodriguez. “However, it looks some people may resort back. Then and then come back to us. That’s also perfectly fine. We are not going to say, ‘Nope, you know what, we wash our hands of you,’ we’re going to actually continue to work with them and be flexible enough so that way they understand that we are there to support them 100 percent when you are ready, come to us.”

The program and fellowship are part of the city’s community crime prevention grants.