By Associated Press - Sunday, April 26, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Law enforcement officials are taking a page from the nation’s largest cities as they work to reduce violence in Indianapolis.

The city has seen the number of homicides jump from 96 in 2012 to 135 last year. Many of the suspects in those cases have criminal records, according to Department of Public Safety data.

Local and federal officials are taking steps usually seen in larger cities to combat the problem, The Indianapolis Star reported ( ).

The moves include an FBI decision to split its Indianapolis office into two divisions, with one covering violent crime and another focused on gangs, and an Indianapolis police effort to target six hot spots they say are the city’s most dangerous.

The FBI changes are similar to those seen in Chicago and New York, said Kevin Lyons, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis office.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said the additional federal resources can help deter violence by hitting criminals with tougher federal laws.

“It far exceeds any relationship that I’ve ever had with the FBI,” Riggs said. “They are taking this seriously.”

Riggs said he’s concerned that 92 percent of homicide suspects and 81 percent of victims last year had a criminal history. In 2012, those rates were 70 percent and 73 percent, respectively.

City officials hope federal prosecutors can lock up career criminals for longer periods.

Acting U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler said federal agencies have prioritized working with city police to address the violence.

“The nice thing with this relationship with IMPD is we can take their investigations, because they’re on the streets, they see what’s going on, they find out about it, they bring it to us and we can take it to another level,” Minkler said.

Despite the creation of two FBI units, Riggs and Indianapolis police Chief Rick Hite said the city doesn’t have a widespread gang problem. And though last year’s homicide rate was the highest since 2006, Riggs said the number of nonfatal shooting victims has dropped.

“We are in a better situation than we were in 2012, quite frankly,” Riggs said. But he acknowledged that the city still has work to do, especially in the “hot spots,” which account for 4.7 percent of the city’s population and 27 percent of the homicides.

Those homicide numbers alone are enough to make Indianapolis a priority for federal officials, said Tim Horty, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.

“The yardstick by which almost every city is measured is that homicide rate,” Horty said. “I’m not sure it’s the most fair way, but it is the standard, and for that, you have to sit up and take notice.”


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,

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