With Indiana Black Expo – Summer Celebration being considered a public safety success, it just might provide a new model for how to deal with crime in Indianapolis, not because of the heavy police presence, but because of the persistent messaging that was geared towards families.
As someone who has spent the past several years downtown on the second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo, I can easily recall the days when the streets were filled with unsupervised teenagers running wild. We all recall 2010, where Shamus Patton fired several shots and injured nearly 10 people. We can also recall more recently a 16-year old who was murdered on the 4th of July by another teen downtown during the fireworks show. Not this year. Police and the faith-based community were everywhere and not only were unsupervised young people hard to find, but there were a lot more families, of all racial backgrounds, in the area.
IBE’s theme this year was “Family Strong” and it promoted that message in the media and on a number of days made it free for kids 12 and under when escorted with an adult. IMPD also put out the message to parents telling them that if their kids get into trouble, they are very likely to be put on the hook as well.
And that is how you fight crime. Yes, you do the traditional work of law enforcement. For example, identify traditional troublemakers and put them on notice, but you also engage parents and the community as a whole. I saw more 10-Point Coalition volunteers this year doing faith walks than I ever had in previous years. And what was the end result? I saw one arrest Saturday night, but as a I jokingly say, it was a white guy, so it really didn’t count. Seriously, it was a man arrested for turning on Meridian and going the wrong way down Washington Street. No offense, but that is pretty typical for a Saturday night in a big city.
And even the shooting that took place at the Courtyard Marriott parking garage was long after Expo had ended and it was accidental, according to IMPD. Unfortunately, it was a juvenile with a gun, two things that do not mix, so that shows we will always have our work as a community cut out for us.
However, last Saturday shows that this community can come together and work together to address the crime issue and do it well. And it’s not just more police that is getting the job done, it is more of the community stepping in and getting involved and saying enough is enough. As Indianapolis moves forward with its crime-fighting model, hopefully local officials will look at what happened with Indiana Black Expo (or at least that second Saturday night) and incorporate it into their public safety plan.
In addition, with Expo being a much safer event on Saturday night, organizers can work closer with local downtown businesses to get those families into those establishments so it is worth their while to be open on that evening.
Expo was, for all intent and purposes, a public safety success and there’s no reason why that success can’t be duplicated in the rest of the city.