Editor's Note: The following originally appeared as the introduction to IM's Crime Issue in March 2013. As of December 2013, Marion County had 116 homicides on the year—the highest total since 2006.
Consider this: In Indianapolis, your likelihood of falling prey to violent crime is more than 25 percent greater than it was in 2000. Your chances of being hit by property crime increased by nearly half. Overall, the probability that you will be a victim of some kind is 1 in 15. This according to FBI uniform crime reporting from 2011 (when aggravated assault was nearly 40 percent more common here than it was in Chicago, and burglaries were close to twice as frequent). The odds of you being subjected to violent crime were greater than if you lived in Gary. For every type of crime tracked by the FBI, you would have been safer living in New York City or Los Angeles.
Figures from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, compiled from 2012 preliminary incident reports, are a mixed bag. Although rape and homicide held steady over the previous year, robbery and aggravated assault—violent crimes that affect Indy residents in far greater numbers—were up by 3 and 11 percent.
But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Facts on the ground make us fear that crime is simply running amok, particularly in some of the city’s destination neighborhoods and at showcase attractions. Muggings and assaults have been a buzzkill for Broad Ripple nightlife and have made northsiders rethink those evening jogs on the Monon Trail. Downtown, it seems mayhem might erupt on any given day—such as last year, when one shooting wounded five teenagers, or this past January, when a fight at Circle Centre led to gunfire that damaged a skywalk connected to the Indiana Convention Center. The IMPD is even posting officers with metal detectors outside the mall’s doors. A string of news-making fires, including the shocking Richmond Hill explosion, seem to bear out the 6 percent jump in arson reports citywide.
None of us is immune, not even the wealthy, famous, or otherwise noteworthy: Last year, Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully was attacked on Monument Circle, and Colts star Reggie Wayne had his car stolen from the downtown Westin hotel. Nor are burbs and high-rent neighborhoods: The Johnson County home of prominent developer Paul Kite was burglarized, and jeweler Gary Thrapp was shot during a home invasion at his residence near Keystone at the Crossing.
Compounding our feelings of insecurity is this: While the vast majority of men and women charged with keeping us safe do just that, last year too many of them faced charges, with police officers falling on the wrong end of at least five DWIs, a domestic battery, and a violent hostage standoff—and that’s just the ones we know of. The IMPD’s mishandling of evidence in the David Bisard drunk-driving case mired the department in controversy and lost the old chief his job. How can they keep order in Indianapolis, we wonder, when they can’t even keep order in their own house?
Crime, then, has emerged as one of the most critical and challenging issues facing Indianapolis, on par with failing public schools, urban blight, and municipal budget shortfalls. Indeed, you could argue—and we do—that crime is an aggravating factor in all of the above.
In for Questioning: Q&A with Public Safety Director Troy Riggs
The Undercover Files: Reports from Local Vice, Child-Exploitation, Narcotics, and White-Collar Crime Squads
Mean Streets: Crime in My Indy Neighborhood
Crime Files: IM's Best-Ever Longform Crime Stories
Scoundrels and Scandals: Indy's 10 Most Notorious Criminals of All Time
Crime Fiction: Novel Excerpt from Hoosier Grit-Lit Author Frank Bill
This article appeared in the March 2013 issue.