INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis homicide officers were investigating three unrelated deaths this weekend as the city's murder rate continued to rise.
The deaths, which occurred within just hours of one another, pushed total murders for the year to 124. Police say there have been another 16 justifiable homicides on top of that.
Police officials say this is the highest murder rate the city has seen in seven years.
The first of the weekend's victims, 18-year-old Markeewann Ward, was found shot in an alley behind a home on the 3500 block of Graceland Avenue, just down the street from Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Joe Wynns, a former park director for the city, is a member of that church. He says in addition to better urban planning, the city needs more police walking neighborhoods.
"You can't grow to be this big, world class city and don't grow your public safety to keep up with it," Wynns said. "You'll become a murder capital of the world."
An RTV6 analysis of the city's 2013 murder rate compared to Chicago's shows that Indy has seen approximately 10 percent more homicides per capita than the Windy City.
Chicago, with a population of more than 2.7 million, has reported 409 murders and justifiable homicides this year, according to www.DNAinfo.com, which tracks the city's crime rate. That puts it at roughly 15.1 homicides per 100,000 residents.
Indianapolis, by comparison, has seen 140 homicides to its 822,000 citizens for a homicide rate of 17 per 100,000 people.
It's also the first time the city has broken 100 murders since 2008.
While acknowledging the uptick in murders, IMPD Chief Rick Hite said Indianapolis is still a safe city.
"Violent crime is down and, despite our recent spike in murders, non-fatal aggravated assaults involving guns are down as well," Hite said.
"Any intentional death by violent means is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our city," Hite continued. "However, a majority of these incidents involved both victims and suspects who were engaged in unlawful behavior which precipitated the murder."
Hite add that this weekend's murders "were not random acts."
On Sunday, student members of Purdue University's Campus Crusade were walking neighborhoods, passing out care packages and listening to neighbor's concerns.
"We're not from here, but knowing that another child of God is down, that breaks our heart," said student Kelly Houser. "Coming to the community and hopefully bringing back a little piece of joy is all we can really do."
"If we can make the smallest amount of difference telling them that they don't have to have it all together, and we do love them, that's all that matters," added fellow student Natalie Damon.
At Mt. Zion, the congregation was praying for peace.
"It takes a whole village: church, faith community, police, government and people," said Rev. Philip James.
Police said the bloodiest year in Indy's history was 1998, when 162 people were murdered.