Armed officers on IndyGo buses hope to stop downtown violence

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Armed officers are riding IndyGo buses and have been since August. But in recent days, their duties have become more focused.

They're working with the Indianapolis Metro Police Department to prevent teen violence downtown, like the shooting that occurred near Circle Centre Mall two weeks ago.

Brysen Garner is one of the IndyGo's transit officers. He's an off-duty IMPD officer who works off-duty patrolling bus stops and buses.

Wednesday afternoon he roamed the bus stop at Ohio and Meridian, an area known for problems, mingling with people waiting for buses.

One woman told him, "I can tell the difference since police have been down here."

IndyGo was able to hire armed officers through a private security firm after it received a $447,000 Homeland Security grant last summer to increase security.

"Riding the bus is safe, but anytime you see an officer, as long as you're complying with the law, I feel there's a level of comfort and appreciation for them," said IndyGo President Mike Terry.

While IndyGo has had security officers in the past, Terry said they were never armed, nor did they have arresting power. That gives police another way to deal with problem teens who often take the bus to get downtown.

Statistics provided by IndyGo show transit officers made 18 arrests in December and eight in November for everything from public intoxication to assault.

As Garner hopped aboard a bus along Ohio, the driver told him, "It's blessing to have law enforcement. I've seen the improvement out here, especially with the presence."

Terry said the IndyGo grant essentially covers two officers a day for two years. In the wake of the recent teen violence, IMPD has assigned its own officers to patrol and ride buses weekend evenings.

Asked about the police presence, Katrina Thackery said, "You don't get the attitude you usually see on the bus. Because of him it's a lot safer."

Sarah Null agreed, "You're not attempting to get robbed and there's not a lot of drug use when he's here."

While one teen said, "I don't like the police. I'm cool. I'm safe either way," Chris Iacovacci said, "I think it's a good thing. It keeps the violence down and keeps young people from doing dumb stuff."

His only complaint? "They need to be here more. I want to see more of a good thing."

IMPD and IndyGo are focusing on problem locations. They include the downtown loop, Meridian at St. Clair and 10th at Rural Street.