Sep 29, 2013

Written by Tim Evans / Indianapolis Star

They were short lives ended by violence.

Through the first eight months of this year in Marion County, 39 people between the ages of 16 and 24 have died in homicides — 36 were black males.

Interactive: A closer look at the 36 homicide victims.

That demographic represents less than 2 percent of the Marion County population yet has produced 92 percent of the victims in that age group. It also accounts for nearly 40 percent of the 94 homicides through the end of August.

The disproportionate number of young black men who show up in homicide statistics is not new or unique to Indianapolis. But this year goes well beyond the norm. The 36 victims represent a 171 percent jump from 2012, and the number is at least one-third higher than anytime in the past eight years.

While the growing number of homicides is troubling, the victims represent a fraction — less than 1 percent — of the city’s young black men. Still, their cases provide context to the harsh reality that in Marion County young black men are 10 times more likely than their white counterparts to die in a homicide.

An Indianapolis Star examination of hundreds of pages of police reports and other public records uncovered common themes in the lives of the growing number of victims: a history of troubled pasts at home, school and in their neighborhoods that intersects with a street culture where carrying a gun — and using it to settle a dispute or earn respect — can be seen as the measure of a man.

The findings reveal that 33 of the victims were involved in prior violent outbursts that drew law enforcement attention, and 31 in incidents where police reported guns were used or found. Five had been shot at least once before they were killed.

“I actually think kids are getting more violent and at a younger age,” said the Rev. Charles Harrison, who heads the Ten Point Coalition, a group that sends pastors and volunteers into some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods to quell violence.

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Recent black-on-white crimes ► continually updated ]