Police team up with Mass Ave. merchants to fight crime

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - There is a new game plan in place to help businesses on Massachusetts Avenue after an uptick in crime in that area.

Since the latest incident at Natural Born Juicers, both police and businesses have come up with a game plan to get in front of the crime before something else happens on Mass Ave.

Melissa Dugle is the manager at Decorate on Mass Ave., which opened up about four years ago. They had their best year of business in 2018 and are on track for even a better year in 2019 as Mass Ave continues to grow.

"I love coming down here and working," said Dugle.

Decorate is one of many businesses now on full alert about suspicious people and activity. There is even a Mass Ave Merchants Facebook page, a closed group sharing much needed information.

"We also have texting set up to where if something is going on at one end, then we notify each other," said Melissa Dugle. "We let them know what's going on if we've seen something suspicious to let the other businesses know to keep an eye out."

Especially after someone targeted Natural Born Juicers on Mass Ave. on January 21. Metro officers found the front window broken out, the cash register stolen and employees shared with Eyewitness News that's not all they stole from the business.

"They got away with iPads, no cash or anything, so it's kind of cold," said Moe, one of the store's employees.

In a separate case, someone threw an eight-pound rock through the window at Furr. The act of vandalism sent glass flying everywhere. Then, on another occasion in broad daylight, someone did the same thing at Moxie's Salon just three blocks away.

Now, IMPD's Downtown District Commander Phil Burton and his team have taken a proactive approach to Mass Ave crime.

Burton and some of his key downtown police personnel met Friday morning with business leaders not only to share crime maps showing year to year incidents, but also answer questions about making Mass Ave crime free.

Chantel Stone works as the Mass Ave merchant coordinator. She is extremely happy about the police department's efforts to be open and transparent about what’s happening in the business district when it comes to all types of crime issues. She knows unchecked crime would eventually have an impact on their customer base and the people who work in the Mass Ave area.

"They don't want to feel that there is a crime about to happen. We know that this is urban living and people should be self-aware," Stone said.

Burton talked about how to handle everything from suspicious packages to homeless people on business property to counterfeit money being used at their companies. During the meeting, the commander opened the floor for questions and concerns on any topic.

"I wanted to bring the merchants in to assure them we are doing all we can do," Burton said.

Terri Skipper is the new executive director for the Riley Area Development Corporation. She's been on the job for about two weeks and already sees some security changes that need to be made in wake of the recent incidents.

The police-business leader meeting is perfect timing for Skipper, who will be tasked with what to do to help keep development thriving in the Massachusetts Avenue area and beyond.

"I think we have a strong relationship with IMPD and with that type of relationship I think we will be okay," Skipper said.

There are two new major construction projects underway on Mass Ave, which will mean more businesses, but hopefully not more crime.

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