Does it matter if criminals kill criminals? Lots of people seem to think it does not, says Matthew Tully of the Indianapolis Star. An increasingly loud chorus has been taking solace in the fact that many of the city's murder victims have rap sheets — long records full of violence and other misdeeds — and, thus, put themselves in danger before getting killed. The message: “They asked for trouble, and they got it.” If you're not out dealing drugs or buying them or doing a few other bad things, there's little chance you'll get murdered in Indianapolis. Risky behavior dramatically increases your odds of getting shot, but living in a city where lots of people get shot also increases your odds of getting shot, whether you're a criminal or not.
Police Chief Rick Hite unfortunately provided an amplifier to the tough-luck chorus when he released a statement boldly declaring Indianapolis “a safe city” and, noted that a majority of last year's homicide victims had criminal records. There are many flaws in the “it's-just-criminals-killing-criminals” argument, writes Tully. They are flaws that extend far beyond the important question of whether we should have basic human empathy even for those victims who committed crimes. Crime is a serious problem in Indianapolis. Roughly 5,000 violent crimes were reported last year, along with an additional 43,000 crimes such as home break-ins and car thefts. In all, 125 people were murdered. And, yes, many of them had criminal records. Tully concludes that “dismissing any of them is foolish business.”