INDIANAPOLIS — Just-released data from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department shows homicide detectives cleared 35% of last year’s killings in the year that they were committed.
Though the calendar rolled over less than a month ago, IMPD’s pursuit of 2022 killers continued.
”There have been six 2022 cases that have been cleared this year,” said IMPD Captain Roger Spurgeon. ”So, currently, because of the clearances that have happened since the end of the year, it’s actually just under 44% for the clearances for 2022.”
From 2019-2022, between 40-45% of annual homicide cases were cleared in the year they occurred.
”It’s roughly the same area where we have been in recent years, the last probably two, three years,” said Spurgeon. “Prior to that, it had been higher in the area of 55-60%. Prior to that, it had been higher still.”
To clear a case, IMPD homicide detectives either make an arrest, have a warrant issued, have determined their suspect is dead or in jail on another case or the killing was in self-defense or accidental.
Indianapolis’ exploding homicide tallies above 200 for three straight years coincided with the COVID pandemic, the retirement of several veteran detectives and the expansion of the homicide branch to include 31 investigators and two analysts.
”Detective experience is another issue,” said Spurgeon. “We’ve had some turnover in recent years, and we’re getting newer detectives, and that’s not to say that they don’t have good skills and aren’t being trained well, but they do need to gain more experience.”
Investigators are also left stymied by witnesses and families who won’t fully cooperate when questioned about a killing.
”There’s a ‘don’t snitch’ culture, meaning that people are unlikely to cooperate with the police for a variety of reasons,” said Spurgeon. ”Another part is retaliation or fear of retaliation. Many times, people live in a community, and they’re afraid for themselves or their families if they cooperate because they still have to live in those communities.”
It was two years ago this week that Derell Brown, 25, was found shot to death at the Stonybrook Commons Apartments, possibly during a cellphone robbery.
”This day is a nightmare. It really is a nightmare,” said Denise Bonds as she relived the day of her son’s death. ”He was 25 and had a whole lot to live for, just to know. I want to keep his story out there because he mean a lot to so many people.”
Bonds said she still calls the detective on her son’s unsolved case every week.
”I know they got a lot of cases, but one thing they could do is let a mother know something,” she said. ”You will never understand why they decide to pull a gun or take your loved one’s life, but you want to know that that person’s not walking free.”
Captain Spurgeon said greater community cooperation would help boost IMPD’s chances of clearing homicide cases above the 50% benchmark.
”If they believe that they’re going to be caught quickly and that just will be served on them, that might provide a deterrent. They might think twice. They might choose another course of action that doesn’t involve violence, and that’s what we hope for.”