Bike, foot patrols to resume downtown


New efforts are underway this week to keep downtown safe.

Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. has resumed its bike and foot patrols after a one-year hiatus. The patrols involve two off-duty officers working four-hour shifts four days a week.

The patrols come on the heels of several incidents of teen violence earlier this year, including a shooting near Circle Centre Mall.

Danielle Shipley, manager of the Potbelly Sandwich Shop on Monument Circle, welcomes the new patrols.

"I think it's definitely good for business. They're won't be as much of a homeless issue or as many random kids walking around causing problems," Shipley said.

After the shooting, police stepped up patrols around the mall and even put officers on buses.

IDI's Betty Dobkins, a former IMPD police officer, said the decision to bring back the patrols was "a combination" of several things, noting the bike patrol was something "we had been talking about that long before these issues popped up."

Dobkins said the off-duty officers would mainly be involved in "quality of life issues" such as "helping visitors find their way around downtown" and enforcing the panhandling laws.

But she also said the patrols would also be available to help police deal with other issues including teen violence. She said having the patrols, "frees up officers to work in the mall and IDI officers to work outside the mall."

IDI actually began using bike and foot patrols in 1995 after the mall opened. More people downtown led to more problems there. While budget cuts forced IDI to cut the patrols in 2011, it found the money ($50,000) to fund them this year.

Bruce Pallman, who owns Roberts Camera on South Meridian Street, said "It's an excellent move. I love having the added presence."

While Pallman noted he's "really not felt that added danger they're talking about at the mall or anywhere else," he said what happens beyond his store can affect business.

"Our customer base is primarily a destination-customer base and they need to feel comfortable about coming here," Pallman said.

But he said what he's most worried about are the panhandlers who camp out in front of his store and throughout downtown.

"I think people are generally uncomfortable (with panhandlers) and that's as big of an issue as the mall issue," he said.

It's also an issue for IDI. In fact, it supports the mayor's proposal to ban panhandling downtown. In the meantime, Dobkins said the IDI patrols would be helping to enforce the panhandling laws.

"It's a problem and hopefully we can get a little tougher on that without being abusive," she said.

The patrols are funded through the end of October.