Pandemic and violence drive death toll in Indianapolis

Between COVID-19 and an increase in violent crime, the coroner’s office and funeral home directors have noted a sharp increase in deaths over the past year.

INDIANAPOLIS – Violent crime, like the fatal shooting scene near 42nd Street and Post Road in Marion County this week, is part of the cause of record deaths in the metro area. Just ask Alfrena McGinty, who met 13News in the same neighborhood. This is one of Indy’s hotspots for crime.

McGinty is the deputy chief of the Marion County Coroner’s Office in Indianapolis, where last year has been the busiest ever. They’ve had so many deaths that McGinty has had to find ways to adjust to the way they hold the deceased. During last year’s pandemic, she ordered refrigerated trailers for the parking lot.

“We are looking at a number of increased natural deaths in part due to COVID, a growing number of homicide deaths and a significant number of drug overdose deaths,” she said.

Bruce Buchanan is the owner of Flanner Buchanan Funeral Homes, which serve families in Marion and Hamilton counties in central Indiana.

“We’re doing more funerals or delayed memorial services,” Buchanan said.

In his 35 years in the family business, Buchanan has never been approached by so many families commemorating their loved ones. More and more deaths have forced Flanner Buchanan Funeral Centers to get creative in serving families.

“There would be times when there would be a death in Marion County, but we would go to Hamilton County,” Buchanan said.

The funeral home owner and the coroner are both reporting higher numbers of deaths linked to violent crime, COVID-19, suicide and drug overdoses. The Funeral Director Daily publication reported that the United States had recorded 93,000 drug overdose deaths in one year.

“What you see nationally is what we see in our local community,” McGinty said.

McGinty supports ongoing campaigns by community and city leaders that are designed to address issues that impact high crime and poor neighborhoods like lack of groceries, access to mental health care and underemployment. McGinty is also concerned about hot spots in parts of the city that tend to see repeat violent crime, especially homicides.

“It saddens me that we come back again and again to this neighborhood to investigate the deaths,” she said.

Now that the pandemic has subsided, McGinty and Buchanan hope to see fewer deaths in Marion County.

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