Indy residents question safety in light of violent outbreak

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When it comes to drawing conventions and other events, Indianapolis has always promoted itself as a safe city, but the spike in homicides has some wondering whether that's changing.

Tressely McLaughlin lives on the north side with her husband and six-month-old son. While she says she loves Indianapolis, she worries about the violence.

"Indianapolis is a great city, they do a lot of things wonderfully," Tressely says, "but the crime rate has gotten bad."

She says she's becoming increasingly concerned about her family's safety.

"Hearing about the homicides is scary," she says. "We recently got an alarm system for the house because of things like that."

Vince Williams, who's lived in Indianapolis since 1956, is also a bit unnerved by the jump in homicides, with 29 people killed in 52 days.

"It is unusual," Williams said. "What's going on? Why are so many people shooting so many people? There has to be a reason, but what?"

The increase in homicides comes as the mayor looks for ways to expand the tax base to draw more middle- and upper-income wage earners to the city.

The mayor, in Arizona for a conference of mayors, was not available for comment Friday, but spokesman Marc Lotter noted that most of the 29 homicides this year were not random acts of violence. The victims knew their assailants. Lotter added that other violent crimes were down, including aggravated assault.

Still, Dan McQuiston, who teaches marketing at Butler University says, many people won't find that reassuring.

"Unfortunately, a situation this drastic and this tragic (seven people killed in eight hours) really compounds itself," McQuiston said. "It's been shown over the years that bad news travels much more quickly than good, so things like this do have an impact on Indianapolis."

He said if a city develops an image of being unsafe, whether it's accurate or not, it is hard to change.

"People have a tendency with all the negative things they see, to think, 'Yes, this could indeed happen to me' and 'Gee, is this the place I want to consider?" he said. "I hope people realize this is a bit of an outlier event. Indianapolis really has so much going for it."

McLaughlin agrees.

"I love being here. My husband is from here. He loves being here," she said.

But she also said if things don't get better, they will consider moving.

"We wouldn't want to leave. We would come visit often, but it is something we think about for safety issues," she said.

Lotter said one of the issues being discussed at the mayor's conference is urban violence - what are cities doing to combat the problem.

He said the mayor will be addressing crime in Indianapolis during his State of the City address Thursday, April 27.