Indianapolis seeking short-term solutions while emphasizing long-term causes of homicides



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INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis has recorded its 100th homicide with three months left in the year, keeping the city on track to set a seven-year high.

Authorities have implemented a series of long-range plans to deal with the increase, including hiring 150 new officers by the end of 2018. Officials and community members are also trying to address the immediate threat. Police will put 50 graduates from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy on the street by the end this year, Sgt. Kendale Adams said Wednesday, and some "fast-track" officers will be on patrol sooner than that.

But with 40 percent of the killings happening behind closed doors, more officers aren't the only answer. So officers are putting out doorknob hangers that contain information on how to contact police and encouraging neighborhood watches.

"The more people engage in their communities and in their neighborhoods, the faster crime comes down," Adams said.

Some neighborhood churches help, too, by teaching alternatives to fighting to resolve conflicts.

A faith-based group called the Ten Point Coalition has about 24 members on patrol most nights in troubled neighborhoods to try to break up fights and keep them from escalating and plans to expand operations to 40 members on patrol in a wider area within the next two weeks, said the Rev. Charles Harrison, one of the group's leaders.

Most homicides this year have been committed by people who know each other, and both killers and victims generally have criminal records, officials say. Mayor Greg Ballard is pushing state legislators for mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said that with a 10-year minimum, the city would have had 20 percent fewer homicides this year because either the killer or the victim would have been in jail.

Still, that's a long-term approach, and killers and their victims aren't always acquainted.

Ho Shin Lee, 36, of Noblesville, died March 30 after prosecutors say he was shot while trying to stop a shoplifting. Two teenagers have been charged with murder, robbery and firearms violations in his slaying.

Nathan Trapuzzano, 24, was on a morning walk April 1 when a 16-year-old boy forced him into a strip club parking lot before shooting him, authorities said. Prosecutors filed adult charges of murder, felony murder, attempted robbery and carrying a handgun without a license against the teenage suspect.

And a man walking his dog found the burned body of 15-year-old high school student Dominique Allen in his backyard on Aug. 31. Authorities say she died of asphyxiation and was dead when her body was burned. Investigators believe the slaying was random, and no suspect has been arrested.

In the latest slaying, a police officer heard gunshots while on patrol on the city's near-west side Friday night and eventually found the body of 31-year-old Brandon Jefferson in an alley. Police have no suspects.

The city is on track to beat last year's toll of 125 deaths with 132. That would be the most since 2007. The record was 162 in 1998.

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