IBE, IMPD leaders game plan for safe Summer Celebration
Metro police have a game plan to keep this year's Summer Celebration safe for the thousands of people who will attend Indiana Black Expo events.
Leaders of the Black Expo recognize that this is an important time following a violent week in Indianapolis, including a fatal shooting downtown.
Police say although most of the people who come downtown for Summer Celebration events cause no trouble at all, they still have to plan for the worst. That means seeing a police officer almost everywhere you turn and some you won't see because they will be working undercover.
Summer Celebration organizers have made some big changes this year, which include everything from kids getting in free to shorter hours, plus some once-in-a-lifetime chances for young people.
When the crowds pack downtown for Summer Celebration, nobody will be more ready than Alaina Renae.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime," she said.
Alaina is competing in "Summer Celebration Idol," for a chance to share the stage with Grammy-winning superstar Jill Scott. She and other singers are counting on Summer Celebration being drama-free.
"Don't be afraid of Black Expo, don't be afraid of the Circle City Classic. There are some wonderful people here, there are some wonderful kids here, wonderful everything here and I am here to add to that," Alaina said.
"There will be people from recording companies and stars that will hear them, so the winner of Summer Celebration Idol may get their start from this event," said Indiana Black Expo spokesperson Vernon Williams.
Black Expo event organizer Amp Harris recruits stars to help teach peace to young people at Black Expo. His celebrity basketball game is one of the most-attended events.
But Harris believes addressing downtown violence among young people starts long before Expo weekend.
"If I go get Mike (Epps), Reggie (Wayne), Eric Gordon and let's go to the hood where they are, now wait until they get downtown, because at that point, anything could happen," he said.
Events like the celebrity basketball game are designed to draw thousands of young people and there are brand new events this year to do the same.
But when it comes to keeping the peace, police and Black Expo organizers have had success to avoid a repeat of scene like one in 2010 that was sparked by violence.
IMPD Chief Rick Hite says they will designate detainment locations for unruly young people and call for their parents, which has been a success in the past.
"We anticipate having the same success. We will have our community affairs officers there who will be assisting IMPD, of course, and also the sheriff's department identifying young people and they will take control of those young people contact their parents," Hite said. "But more importantly, we believe that our young people are going to come in peace. We really believe that. If not we will be there waiting for them."
This year, the timing of Summer Celebration events are purposely designed to keep parents in the mix.
"There are opportunities to have the children go and enjoy some of the festivities that are specifically designed for children, while the parents can go and do their thing, too," Williams said.