Police seek answer to teen violence downtown

Five teenagers were shot along the downtown canal Saturday night.
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Top public safety officials are calling for a community-wide solution to the teen violence problem spilling over downtown. They're calling on parents, Circle Centre Mall and even the city's bus service for help.

Videotapes shot by 13 Investigates show droves of teenagers being ordered out of Circle Centre Mall at closing time on Saturday night back in 2006.

Since then, 13 Investigates' cameras have documented teen troubles spilling out onto downtown city streets over the last four years, including disturbances, fights, and shootings from Circle Centre to the canal.

Exclusive security video obtained by 13 Investigates even shows a 2008 shooting on an IndyGo bus on a Saturday night packed with teenagers.

This was all before five more teens were shot over the weekend.

Fed up with the violence, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Paul Ciesielski didn't mince words about what's taking place in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday nights.

"Unsupervised young adults coming downtown spending their time at the mall and then when the mall closes, they spill out into the streets. And every Saturday, we have a lot of officers, quite frankly, babysitting the kids until they get on the buses and go home," he said.

The shootings have prompted a well of community response.

"The police and the people of security down there need to be more forceful in what they do," said 71-year-old Don Hobbs before he boarded a bus from the same downtown bus stop the teens used on Saturday night.

Hobbs says he would support tougher enforcement, because too many teens are not being held accountable by the adults in their lives.

"Sometimes, policing may not be enough," admitted Oscar Gamble, who also puts the responsibility back on parents and the teens themselves.

"It's not just a police problem, but it's truly a community problem," Ciesielski said, acknowledging the ongoing issue.

The problem that escalates between the time teens leave the mall, to when they finally board buses to go home. It's often a two-hour window, leaving them wandering around and into trouble.

"And the parents are so loose with their kids now, they say 'I can't control my kid.' What's that? You can't control your kids?" added Hobbs in disbelief.

Neither the Simon Property Group nor IndyGo would speak with 13 Investigates on camera.

In an email, a Simon spokesman wrote, "We, like everyone in our community, were appalled by the incident that occurred near the canal. Simon Property Group and Circle Centre Mall abhor violence in our city, especially in downtown. We are fully committed to the safety and security of our center."

See Simon's full statement here.

IndyGo says it is working with public safety officials on solutions, including curfew announcements on its buses. The recorded announcement says, "Attention teens 17 and under, know the Indiana curfew rules. Plan ahead. Check your route schedules for nighttime departures."

IndyGo offers 17 different bus routes within the first half-hour of the mall's closing. The problem is, most teens want to wait for that very last bus at 11:45 pm. By then, there are only two buses rolling - and those buses are blocks from Circle Centre.

Bus Number 39 picks up its last passengers on Capitol alongside the Statehouse, while bus 8 East, leaves downtown on Ohio Street near the canal. IndyGo says it provides the later buses for workers in the downtown area.

But police say teens are overstaying their welcome downtown and overwhelming the buses by using their school passes for a free ride, sometimes to and from trouble.

Extra patrols were on duty downtown Saturday night. While the increased presence made for a quicker response, it didn't deter the violence. The goal now is to reduce the number of teens wandering around downtown.