City leaders credit sophisticated crime analysis, targeted policing, dogged legwork and community cooperation with keeping homicides in Indianapolis at their lowest levels in recent history.To Touhy's credit, he pours some cold water on Public Safety Director Frank Straub's outlandish claims as of late that violent crime rates are down in Indianapolis because of the masterful job the Ballard administration is doing running the police department.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department preliminarily recorded 100 criminal homicides in 2010, one more than in 2009, when the city recorded a 16-year low.
"Our officers and analysts have been very aggressive in making use of crime analysis, mapping and picking out crime hot spots," said Public Safety Director Frank Straub. "Each week our district commanders get a new analysis of where they should put their officers."
But crime experts said policing is likely only part of the explanation; Indianapolis, like many other cities, is simply riding a national crest in violent-crime reduction.If you use the method of counting the number of homicides Greg Ballard used when he ran for mayor in 2007 against Bart Peterson, the number of homicides was actually 120 last year, as noted by the statistics maintained by the Bart Lies blog. It recorded 106 homicides in 2009 compared to the 99 figure cited by the Ballard administration and 124 homicides in 2008. There were 125 homicides the last year of the Peterson administration in 2007 and the record was set in 2006 with 150 homicides. Indianapolis recorded three homicides the first three days of 2011, which is a bad pace for the new year. "I think we can do better, actually," Ballard told Tuohy. "We had a rough start last year. The bigger picture is that the average . . . was in the 120 range for the better part of 16 years. Ballard added, "The last two years have been dramatically lower than any other year in a long, long time." To wit Bart Lies says, "The numbers game gets played each year, pretending there are fewer victims than there actually are, ostensibly to bolster political careers and show us things are not ‘that bad.’" "We wonder how the families [of the victims] feel about this?"
"Murder is down in the United States and has been for a number of years," said Brian Royer, a criminologist at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. "I guess it looks real good if you compare Indianapolis to Indianapolis, but a lot of other places are declining, too."
Despite the city's two-year dip in homicides -- previous years more typically saw about 120 homicides -- it fared slightly worse than other cities its size in 2009. And that seems likely to be the case again in 2010 when the final numbers are in.
Why? Because crime is falling elsewhere, too.
Homicides here were committed at a rate of 12.3 per 100,000 residents in each of the past two years, compared with the 11.4 average rate for midsized cities in 2009, according to the FBI.
The FBI reported that homicides declined 9 percent nationwide from 2005 to the end of 2009 and continued to drop in the first half of 2010.
Experts said the demise of the crack trade, determinate prison sentencing, the dismantling of powerful gangs and an aging population have all factored into the decline.
"A major reason that homicides have fallen is because they were so high in many cities that they had to come down," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston. "For that same reason, I think there is a good potential for another cyclical increase."