Workers express concerns about downtown violence, safety

Extra police will be stationed downtown and around Circle Centre Mall this weekend.
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Indianapolis Metro Police say they will raise the total of officers on patrol downtown this weekend from 30 to 50 to avoid a repeat of last weekend's gun violence outside Circle Centre Mall.

It's happened several times over the past several years and that's raising new questions about the safety of downtown.

Alexis Allen, who works at the mall, said, "I think we all need to be concerned about what's going on in the community, especially downtown. We have a lot of vacationing people who come here, people no business and that can definitely give the city a bad (name.)"

Bill Rostiser though doesn't think there's cause for panic.

"I don't feel any less safe than I did 30-40 years ago, or more safe," he said.

Rostiser, a watchmaker, has worked at Windsor Jewelry, just south of the circle, since 1973.

"Overall, I'd say it's pretty much the same," he said. "Things happen. You know, we could be living in Chicago, where there have been 40 murders so far this year, so overall, I'd say we're a reasonably safe city."

He's not alone.

A biennial perception survey by Indianapolis Downtown Inc. last year found that 71 percent of those polled agreed downtown was safe, a number that has held fairly steady since 2000. (2008 was the low point, hitting 62 percent.)

According to Downtown Inc, a benchmark study of the top 50 metropolitan areas indicates a 45 percent average for safety perception.

But incidents like the one last weekend do raise concerns, particularly for those who've seen the problems around Circle Centre Mall.

"I think police do a good job, but crime has rose a bit, especially if it's reaching downtown," Allen said.

Crime stats from the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety Crime Analysis Unit (as of April 2012) show while overall crime has held fairly steady over the last six years, crimes against persons, which range from simple assault to murder have been rising since 2003, reaching a new high of 354 in 2011.

Jennifer Beinart, who just left a job at the mall, fears incidents like last weekend's can't help but have an impact.

"It really could hurt the tourism business and hurt the image of Indianapolis as a whole, trying to be a welcoming and vibrant community," Beinart said. "Who wants to come downtown if they're afraid they'll get shot?"

She said she was hopeful police would curb further problems, adding, "I think it is safe, but you have to be smart in any city. Having lived in Chicago and various places, you still have to be smart."