INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis' violent crime statistics continue to trouble the city: 39 homicides since Jan. 1 – up nine from the same period last year – and at least 12 shootings in the past week.
They're statistics that have kept IMPD's firearms investigations busy tracing the origin of more than 500 weapons already this year. Many of the weapons were carried illegally.
The firearms unit works at the Marion County Crime Lab to match ammunition and cartridge components back to the weapon that fired them. The unit is capable of linking evidence to gun violence across the city and state – and even the country, in some cases.
In recent years, the crime lab has made connections to more than 600 cases, linking evidence to firearms.
"It's not uncommon to have two or three, probably four [cases] connected to a single firearm," said Michael Putzek, with the Marion County Crime Lab Firearms Unit. "I'd say we've had a couple this year where we've had at least three connected together."
IMPD has a separate unit that tries to tie the gun back to the hand that used it.
Last year, a crime spree left one man dead and another injured in Indianapolis. The firearms unit was able to track the gun – which had been legally purchased and then immediately stolen in a burglar – to crimes dating back years.
Police said they've also traced weapons possessed illegally through straw purchases that were used to shoot and kill Officer David Moore, and also shoot and injure Officer Dewey Runnells.
And, they've been able to trace those guns back to people who had no legal right to possess them, they say.
"[One suspect] was associated with a gun that he denied any knowledge of," said Tammy Kunz, a member of the firearms investigation unit. "And when the trace came back, it proved that he actually purchased that gun prior to him getting a conviction that would prohibit him from having it."
IMPD said it's on track to investigate more than 3,600 gun cases this year – a 25 percent increase over their yearly case load.