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2015 now deadliest year in nearly a decade

Posted at 11:22 PM, Nov 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-30 23:22:24-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- A violent weekend in Indianapolis raised the city's homicide number to 138 for the year -- pushing 2015 past the previous year's number, and putting it on track to be Indy's deadliest in recorded history.

The murders of Tomika Mack and India Barnes, both 34, and a still-unidentified man Saturday marked a grim milestone for a city that has seen three years of increasing violence since 2013. That year, 126 people were killed. Just one year prior, the number was 96.

MORE | Two women killed in shooting at halfway house | One person fatally shot on northeast side

Before then, Indianapolis hadn't seen more than 100 homicides annually in five years.

Click the map below to see where murders have happened near you:

Addressing what then seemed to be a single year of unusually high violence, IMPD Chief Rick Hite assured residents at the end of 2013 that Indianapolis was a safe place to live.

"Unless you are involved in illegal behavior or live a lifestyle which increases your risk of harm, your chances of being a victim of violent crime are reduced significantly," Hite said in a December 2013 statement.

MAP | See Indy's most dangerous districts

But in 2014, 135 people were killed – 10 more than the previous year and nearly 40 more than two years prior. Among those victims was Nathan Trapuzzano, a 24-year-old father-to-be shot and killed while taking a morning walk on April 1, 2014.

Trapuzzano's killer, then-18-year-old Simeon Adams, was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the murder.

Two months before Trapuzzano's murder, Hite laid some of the blame for the uptick in murders on the "sexiness of violence" in society.

"We glorify violence, to a certain extent," Hite said. "And people buy into that notion. I want my name out there … they walk around with information about crimes they committed. They brag about it on social media. So we know for a fact that there's a certain amount of prestige, or street cred as they call it, that goes along with that. And we're sending a message that in a modern society and a civil society, that's not acceptable. It's not OK to fire random shots into a sweet 16 party."

Hite said at the time that, unlike other places he'd worked – he retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Baltimore Police Department after more than 20 years on the force – Indianapolis hadn't missed an opportunity to turn things around.

"Here, we're right on the cusp of change," Hite said, touting the success of a summer policing initiative and a plan to hire 50 more officers.

Rather than change directions, however, the pace of violence has only sped up. Indianapolis reached its 100th homicide for 2015 on September 30 – earlier than any of the previous five years. A spike in homicides since July has resulted, on average, in fewer than two days passing between murders.

MORECity in pain: In Indianapolis, violence continues to rise | One year later: Indy's crime-fighting plan

This year's list of victims will include more stories like Trappuzzano's – stories of innocent victims like 28-year-old Amanda Blackburn, the pregnant pastor's wife killed in her own home, and 10-year-old Deshaun Swanson, whose drive-by shooting has yet to be solved.

MORE | TIMELINE: The murder of Amanda Blackburn | Who killed Deshaun Swanson?

Following this year's 100th murder, Hite called on the community to work with police to prevent "these senseless acts of violence."

Hite and other public safety officials have been quick to tout a number of high-profile busts of criminal drug trafficking organizations like the "Grundy Crew" and the "Ponds Army," but reluctant to comment on the prevailing theory in neighborhoods most affected by violence: that the increase in murders comes as gangs fight to fill the power void left when larger organizations are dismantled.

Some of the problem likely stems from a years-long deadlock between Mayor Greg Ballard and the Democrat-controlled City-County Council, who generally agree the police department is understaffed but not on how to fund needed officers.

Mayor-Elect Joe Hogsett campaigned on a plan to hire 150 new officers, though, considering natural attrition, the number of actual bodies that would add to the force would be a lower number.

Whether Hite will be the one to lead the city's police force under Hogsett is yet to be seen. Hite, who has seen an increase in the city's homicide rate every year he's been chief, has said he will help Hogsett find the best person to lead IMPD going forward.

MORE | Will IMPD Chief Hite keep job under new mayor?

For his part, Hogsett hasn't commented on his plans for IMPD's top job. His staff says "no one is off the table."

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