Lights, cameras to add safety to Expo events downtown

The last two summers have been safe downtown during Summer Celebration.
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Police plan on shedding extra light on downtown streets to improve safety during Indiana Black Expo's Summer Celebration.

Nighttime downtown will be brighter during the next two weekends. A spotlight on security includes temporary lights at key street corners.

"This is the safest big city in the country. This is one of the safest big events in the country," said IMPD Chief Rick Hite.

Related: IMPD, IBE plan for safe Expo

Downtown for a Wednesday night event, families on the streets felt just fine.

"I work downtown, so I feel safe," says Brenda Fox, who was headed to a concert with her little girl.

"I have no problem with it," says Scott Orr with his young daughter.

But past Expo weekends have seen random shots fired and crowd chaos.

Now, with a 16-year-old murdered downtown July 4th and four other fatal shootings in a week, police are throwing everything at the rest of the summer weekends.

"Cameras will be monitored in areas. You'll see that and make sure we're safe downtown," Hite said.

The cameras will be monitored in real time. Police put their heads together with pastors, too. Both will have armies on the streets to talk to young people and break up large groups that seem to encourage a few violent youths.

Even before buses bring teens downtown, police will identify potential troublemakers.

"One-on-one, we'll be paying you a visit," Hite said. "Tell them you the conduct expected of you downtown."

Hundreds of cops will be out in uniform, others undercover. Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons says citizens can play key roles.

"You see a large group starting to gather, starting to cause an issue, see somebody place a bag down next to a building and runaway from it - you can contact us," Coons said.

Witnesses can contact police by calling 911 or by texting a tip to Crime Stoppers. Text "INDYCS" plus your tip information to 274637 (which spells out "CRIMES"). You can remain anonymous.

"A lot of anger on the streets right now and we have some groups that have a beef right now. We just don't want them to bring that to Expo," says Reverend Charles Harrison.

So pastors are telling teens now that violence does not work and won't be tolerated.

"I live downtown. The added safety is certainly a benefit," says Joel Gerlach. .

But others are skeptical. David Richmond says, "It's good they want to take extra precautions, but at the same time doesn't make me feel much safer."

But the last two summers have been safe, police say. Last year, there were only 22 arrests on key nights.