|Something you won’t learn about during Black History Month…|
We have documented the horrors the Indiana Black Expo in Indianapolis has brought to the city before, and we have documented the police state measures enacted to ensure peace and a modicum of stability are present at each subsequent Black Expo.
Mayor Greg Ballard says he’s outraged at shooting attacks which left ten people wounded during the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration.
Ballard and other leaders held a news conference Sunday to talk about the three attacks, none of which happened at Expo events themselves.
“This incident, I want everybody to understand, does not define the Summer Celebration. It does not define Black Expo, it does not define the City of Indianapolis, nor the African-American community in Indianapolis,” Ballard said.
Saturday night was an all too familiar scene at Circle Centre Mall as an officer led away a shooting suspect in handcuffs.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was called to the area after a gun was fired outside the mall. No one was injured, but the shooting occurred at around 7:30 pm at a busy downtown intersection at Capitol and Maryland.
IMPD Chief Rick Hite told Eyewitness News that the problem of teenagers with guns is “urban terrorism.” This issue in the mall area of downtown Indianapolis has plagued IMPD for years.
In 2011, two teenagers were shot on Illinois Street minutes after the mall closed. In addition, on St. Patrick’s Day last year, five teens were shot along the canal.
Former IMPD Chief of Police Paul Ciesielski faced the same issue of teenagers with little to do and no place to go.
An Eyewitness News investigation showed teenage violence all the way back to 2006, from fights outside the mall to a shooting on an IndyGo bus.
Chief Hite knows all too well of the systemic issues that him and his officers are facing, but he has a plan, noting that a more “strict enforcement of the letter of the law has to be up.”
Hite knows the mall has become a recreation center for teenagers. He is questioning whether the mall food courts, which is often where teens hangout, needs to be open until the mall closes.
While the solutions are not easy and they may not come as quickly as some want, he notes that “children are not born with guns in their hands.” Hite wants to know, “where are they getting the weapons from and who is giving them the weapons.”
Hite says going to the root of problem is the best solution. On his side, he has officers working the neighborhoods where repeat juvenile offenders live. According to Hite, this way the problems are stopped in the neighborhoods before coming to the busy streets downtown.
He knows people will still be fearful of downtown, and to those people, he says, “Call me. I will walk with you.”
The Indianapolis Chief of Police says downtown Indianapolis is facing public safety crisis.
Gunfire erupted Saturday night among a crowd of teenagers. It ended with a teenager arrested. A bullet hit a window. No one was hurt, but downtown’s image was damaged again.
As a result, police are changing tactics. They’re getting tough on adult and teenager trouble makers. It is both a public safety and public relations problem.
When Mary Nyhes hears about news like that, she says it doesn’t encourage her to visit downtown Indianapolis. “It actually veers me away from it,” he said.
Another shooting incident in an area frequently crowded with visitors and tourists concerns the people whose job it is to promote downtown.
Bettye Dobkins with Indy Downtown Inc., admitted, “People in Indiana in the donut counties who look at the news and hear the news, they think, ‘Oh my gosh, big bad Indianapolis.’ It scares them.”
Despite numerous efforts, teen gun play has been a problem here for years even though someone is almost always watching. The city has added security cameras, police officers and enlisted the help of church groups. Yet the trouble with teens continues.
Rev. Malachi Walker is among the ministers who’ve worked with police, teens and churches to end the violence.
“What is being done probably needs to be set down and re-evaluated because it is not working,” he said.
Another minister, Rev. Charles Harrison, has led a coalition of churches, community groups and volunteers. They’ve worked with teenagers, neighborhoods and police to prevent the violence.
Rev. Harrison blames city cutbacks on crime prevention spending.
“We no longer have the groups that would do community policing and providing safe havens on the weekend,” he said. “We are not able, like we were years ago, to reach these kids.”
Indianapolis will be reaching out with tougher tactics.
“We hit a new level over the weekend,” said Public Safety Director Troy Riggs. “We had someone brandish a weapon.That cannot be tolerated.”
Starting now, Riggs says police will take a zero tolerance approach to downtown streets. Adult trouble makers will be ticketed or arrested.
Juveniles face tougher consequences as well.
“Young people doing something wrong, we will take them into custody and we will have parents come pick them up or book them into the juvenile facility,” said Riggs.
At the same time, Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite is now leaning on Simon Mall to re-assess its security and not simply expel dozens of troublesome teenagers on to the streets, leaving police unprepared.
Police officers had to break up a brawl near Circle Centre Mall on Saturday night, a disturbance that involved gunfire and resulted in one arrest.
According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, two Marion County sheriff’s deputies, working off-duty, witnessed the fighting, which began inside Circle Centre and continued outside once the youths were expelled from the mall.
According to Lt. Wayne Sharp of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, deputies Daniel Majors and Brian Worland saw a youth fire three shots in the direction of Downtown pedestrians at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday near Capitol Avenue and Maryland Street. The deputies confronted the 16-year-old, but did not fire their own weapons, Sharp said.
The youth then fled, before deputies caught up with him and he surrendered, Sharp said.
Saturday’s brawl was at least the third such incident involving unruly youths this month. uch incidents have prompted some to call for mall curfews for unescorted teens.
The Rev. Charles Harrison, president of the Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based anti-crime organization, has proposed an early evening curfew, after which time no minors would be allowed in malls without an adult.
Circle Centre Mall has no parental escort policy, although malls elsewhere have instituted such rules.
Minnesota’s Mall of America bans unaccompanied teens 16 and under on Friday and Saturday nights. After a melee at that mall in 2011, it extended those restrictions for the recent holiday season to include Black Friday and the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Ask yourself this: is there an event that caters to primarily white Americans that must have a “rally for peace” before it starts? [Downtown rallies to end violence, Indy Star, 7-10-08]:
Chants of “Peace in the streets” and “Stop the violence” echoed across Whistler Plaza at City Market on Thursday afternoon during the fourth annual Peace in the Streets rally.
More than 500 people turned out for the Downtown gathering, which is among kickoff activities for the 11-day Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Police Chief Michael Spears and state Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, were among the speakers. Live music and a short play also carried out the theme.