Murder by numbers 

When Michael Nowland was killed over the weekend, he become the city’s 112th homicide victim of the year.

Given that Indianapolis averages 8-10 homicides each December, and there’s been only 2 reported so far, it’s not a stretch to say we will exceed last year’s final count of 115 victims, and perhaps even break the record of 120 set in 1998.

What ever the final body count is for 2008, it’s clear that murder in Indianapolis is on the rise.

After the peak in 1998, Indianapolis saw its murder rate drop dramatically and for nearly a decade begin to average less than 85 murders each year.

That trend appears to have ended when the number of homicides jumped from 86 in 2005 to 104 in 2006; in 2007 it jumped again to 115. With less than three weeks left in 2008, we are at 112 and counting.

Ours is a higher murder rate per capita than most Midwestern cities – higher than Memphis, Louisville, Columbus and Milwaukee. Higher, as well, than the cities of Atlanta and Chicago.

And while the “why?” of each of the murders might be as individual as the victims, the rest of the details are strikingly similar.  Indianapolis might have a large body count, but it’s one with very little variety.

Murder in Indianapolis: 10 year trend

Year    Total homicides

2008    112*

2007    115

2006    104

2005    86

2004    88

2003    81

2002    81

2001    92

2000    88

1999    97

*Total homicides as of 12/07/08

HOW: Guns blazing

The most recent Sunday edition of the city’s daily paper reported on the surge in the number of gun sales here in Indiana since Obama’s election, part of a national trend that’s seeing a run on firearms on the fear that the liberal new president will enact tougher gun laws.

That should be worrisome news to most Hoosiers.

Indiana ranks at the top of the list for gun stores that sell guns to those who go on to use that gun in a criminal act.  A recent study by Americans for Gun Safety found that 14 gun stores in Indiana could be traced to guns used in more than 200 crimes each year – the most of any state in the country. Don’s Gun’s, here in Indianapolis, ranked second in the country for the most crime to store traces with more than 500 each year.

Guns are certainly the weapon of choice for homicide in Indianapolis. This year is no different than previous years, with firearms accounting for more than 75 percent of murders in the city.

African American and Hispanic victims, both male and female, are the most likely to die by gunfire (85 – 90 percent), white victims die by a far wider variety of means. White women, in particular, have only a 50-50 chance of dying by gunfire.  Beating, blunt force trauma, stabbing, strangulation and arson are also the reported causes this year – as well as several “unknown” causes of death. 



Gun 78%

Beating 8%

Knife 6%

Other 8%


Guns  73%

Knives 12%

Beating 7%

Other 8%


Guns 87%

Knives 6%

Beating 7%

Other 1%

WHO: Mostly Male

While they are the most likely to die by something other than gunfire, white women are the least likely of all Indianapolis residents to be murdered. 

Black women can breath a little easier as well.

Odds are in an Indianapolis woman’s favor that she will not be the victim of a homicide, statistically speaking. While the male/female population is roughly fifty/fifty, men make up nearly 80 percent of all homicide victims.

If a woman is murdered in Indianapolis, the chances of her being white or black are the same. Twelve percent of all murder victims this year have been black females, while 11 percent have been white females.

This doesn’t mean, however, that white and black women have an equal chance of being murdered in Indianapolis.

65 percent of all Indianapolis residents are white, while only 28 percent of murder victims are white.

By comparison, African Americans make up only 25 percent of the city’s population, yet account for more than 65 percent of the murder victims.

And although they comprise less than 15 percent of the total population, more than half of the murder victims in Indianapolis each year are Black males.


Male    79%

Female     21%


Black 68%

White 28%

Hispanic 4%

Gender and Race

White female  11%

Black female  12%

White male  20%

Black male  53%

Hispanic male  4%

WHO – Mostly the young

Murder usually makes the headlines.

If the victim is particularly old or young, the media attention is greatest.  Such were the cases this past year when two 24 year old mothers were murdered along with their infant children.  It was the case again this fall when two elderly gentlemen, each in their 70s were murdered. A long-time couple, many suspect a hate crime because of their homosexuality.

While they often garner more attention, these crimes are no more or less tragic than any of the others – though they are a great deal more rare. Murders of those under 12 and those over 65 make up the smallest segments of all homicides – less than 5 percent for each category.

Like guns, gender and race, there is a clear majority where age and murder are concerned. Over half of all victims are young adults between the ages of 18 and 29.

This age group accounts for the largest number of victims regardless of race and gender without exception.  More than 40 percent of white female and male victims are between 18 and 29; as are 50 percent of black females and 60 percent of black males.

To put all the demographics together – one in three victims of murder in Indianapolis is a young black male between the ages of 18 and 29.


under 12    5%

12-17        3%

18-29        53%

30-39        16%

40-49        10%

50-64        8%

over 65      5%

WHERE: The dead zone

For most of the past few decades, it has the near-Northside of Indianapolis that saw the most homicides. And while the radius around 38th and Meridian continues to see it’s fair share of victims, the Eastside has claimed the largest percentage of murder victims since 2000.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police divide the city into six districts, and the Northeast district accounts for 30 to 40 percent of all the homicides in Indianapolis each year.

More specifically, moving East from I-65 downtown to Arlington Ave., and South from 38th St. down to English Ave., the area comprises the deadliest two zip codes in the city: 46201 and 46218.

This year, one-third of the city’s homicides have occurred in these two zip codes.  

Not coincidentally, this area also has the highest unemployment rate in the city (more than 60 percent for Black males between 18 and 29); the highest high school dropout rate in the city (double the state average); the lowest household income in the state (nearly half of the $45k average).

It is the poorest side of town.  As well as the deadliest. Particularly for the more than 30 Indianapolis residents who have been victims of homicide there so far this year.


IMPD Uniform Crime Reporting Unit 1998-2008

FBI Uniform Crime Reports 1998-2007

US Census Bureau

Download a PDF of the statistics in convenient chart form, as well as a map of the Northeastside murders. 




On 12/10/08, IMPD reported homicide #113 for 2008; a Black male, approx 30 years old; shot while in his vehicle near 22nd and College.  

Homicide victim #114 is 73-year-old Johnnie Conner, owner of Johnnie's Glasses and Frames on the near-eastside of Indianapolis. Conner, a Black male, was found dead on 12/11/08 by a mail carrier at his business located on E. New York Street. The cause of death was not immediately released.

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