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South Bend sees fewer shootings in first part of 2023, but officials remain cautious

 South Bend Police car
Marek Mazurek
South Bend Police car

As summer approaches and temperatures rise, South Bend police are hoping shootings don’t rise as well.

At a public safety update Thursday, officials reported that criminal shootings are down slightly so far this year with 24 shooting victims as of April 30. That number is compared to 34 shootings at this time last year.

However of those shootings, seven this year have been fatal — compared to just five homicides through the first quarter of 2022.

Still, the last time South Bend reported fewer than 30 shootings through April was 2019, but police chief Scott Ruszkowski said the recent murder of 11-year-old T’yon Horston makes that progress feel less impactful.

“Even though we do have less victims, when you have an 11-year-old involved in a homicide, it feels like 111 other people,” Ruszkowski said.

Police did not provide any updates on the investigation into Horston’s death. Ruszkowski said he continues to feel confident in his detectives.

The police department reports that just under 60% of shootings in the city involved a group or gang and that percentage has held steady since 2019. Whether or not an incident is gang-related, Ruszkowski and South Bend Mayor James Mueller believe Indiana’s switch to permitless carry has increased the chances of a shooting occuring.

Mueller said many of the city’s shootings stem from common arguments that quickly escalate into violence. With more guns available, especially for children, those fights can quickly turn into crime scenes.

“It doesn’t help when the state does things like permitless carry, doesn’t take common sense measures to limit guns getting into the wrong hands,” said Mueller. “Some of these are just simple disputes that, if you didn’t have a gun right there, wouldn’t end in a shooting.”

At the local level, officials hope a fully staffed department and the recent deployment of the city’s “Real Time Crime Center” will be able to combat an expected uptick in gun violence over the summer months.

Since its installation in January, the crime center monitors 117 cameras owned by the city and private businesses and nearly 600 residents have registered their cameras in the system.

When dispatchers send police to a call, the department’s software identifies if there are any cameras near the incident and allows crime analysts to look at those cameras in real time. That lets analysts direct officers or alert them as to what a suspect looks like or where they went.

Ruszkowski said the department uses data to choose where new cameras are installed and all cameras are set up in public right of ways.

Officials say the cameras also help streamline investigations.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.