Rough crime times not tainting hoops fans' Indy impressions
Indy's rash of violent crime threatens to tarnish the city's friendly image. But visitors in town for the NCAA basketball tournament say they feel safe.
Night lights and night life in the Circle City. From after dusk back to daylight.
"I love the Cards," shouted one Louisville fan.
The NCAA's visit to Indianapolis has a $20 million impact on the city.
"We're so excited to be here," said Michelle Blackwell of Richmond and her friend, Renee Miller. "I never thought about security, no."
"Chicago, L.A. - just certain areas of those cities, though," said out-of-town visitor Wesley Harrod, naming places that make him think of crime dangers.
"I'm living in the Detroit area, so that's definitely one you hear horror stories about," said his friend Katie Rush.
But neither had negative preconceptions of Indy before coming here.
"It's one of the nicest downtowns we've been in," said Sarah White, a Kentucky fan from Tennessee.
For Sarah and her team the worry isn't crime. It's 'Will their tickets be at will call?'
"If they're not there, I will go to the governor," she joked.
But Indianapolis has worried about crime with a rash of homicides the last several months.
It's sparked grass roots anti-crime efforts and a crackdown on drug crime. But out-of-towners we talked with heard nothing of that. In fact, Chris Gahl with Visit Indy says, "if there was some sort of perception we are unsafe, clearly you would see a decline in visitors, a decline in hotel occupancy. We've seen an uptick."
In 2006, Indy saw 18 million visitors. In 2012, 25 million visitors. Visit Indy says when they survey meeting planners they give the same impression of Indy before and after their visit.
"Clean, safe, and walkable. Clean safe and walkable," said Gahl, "are what really came to the mind of a meeting planner."
Indianapolis Downtown Inc. tells visitors crime downtown was just four percent of all Indy crime as late as 2011.
"We have that beautiful new walking bridge in downtown Louisville that just recently had a crime spree down there," said Tracy Jones, in town for the game with her family. "But when we come to Indy, I don't feel that way at all."