Extra police officers take to streets to curb downtown violence


Police are hitting the streets, hitting downtown mall entrances to hit at teen violence downtown.

Incidents over the last few years downtown have involved a small percentage of teens, but the gang problem itself causes big problems.

The latest incident occurred last Saturday. A 16-year-old was arrested for firing shots near the convention center, breaking a window.

"We are not going to tolerate violence in our city," said IMPD Chief Rick Hite.

Police are now assigning 50 officers around the mall on weekend nights.

Officer Jeff Kelly says the kids he talks to downtown "also ride the bus downtown for the weekends."

Now, police officers will be riding some of those same buses from stops on the east side, letting teens know that messing up at Circle Centre Mall or anywhere downtown will not be tolerated.

Outside the mall, they'll be prepared to use magnetic wands to search teens for weapons. They will not do random or mass searches. They will search people based on probable cause, in cases where they believe a teen may be armed.

"We have people trained to identify people, the nomenclature of people who may be involved in gangs," Hite said.

"Some teens may have a beef with somebody in another side of town and then they see them down here downtown and then you have the escalation from an incident that happened somewhere else," Kelly said.

"Fighting breaking out, guns and stuff, it's time to get out. Don't go running to it," said Rev. Malachi Walker.

Walker of the Ten Point Coalition brought a number of young people from his church group to walk through Circle Centre Mall Friday night.

"I want them to see and understand, when you're walking through the malls, there is a conduct. You must obey all the signs and all the rules of the mall," he said.

He also wants them to be role models for other teens.

"My purpose is to actually speak out and ask some of our people to stop the violence," said one teenager.

"It comes down to the parents being responsible for your children, not just dropping them at the mall. Knowing where they are at all times," Kelly said.

If you see something, police want you to say something by reporting any potential trouble. You can also text the information to 439-2319.