City exploring volunteer bike patrol for downtown Indianapolis

The crime rate in downtown Indianapolis has soared while the police presence has decreased.

Indianapolis

The latest statistics show crime in downtown Indianapolis is up 73 percent. Downtown is perceived to be safe, and the small number of overall crimes tend to exaggerate any increase, but against this backdrop, and faced with a smaller police presence, the city is planning to deploy a voluntary bicycle patrol.

At the behest of Public Safety Director Frank Straub, Indianapolis Downtown Incorporated no longer employs off-duty officers on weekend nights to augment assigned IMPD patrols. Straub has been quoted as wanting the department's downtown district to be wholly responsible for the safety of the city's core.

Straub said he is developing a plan to train and equip college and high school students to patrol downtown on bicycles as goodwill ambassadors. They would act as the additional "eyes and ears" of patrol officers, to warn of public safety problems.

"It wouldn't hurt if somebody saw something and they had the ability to radio it to somebody a lot quicker than a phone call," said Jeff Biers of Windsor Jewelers on Monument Circle. "We've had a lot of out of town guests downtown recently and they just raved about downtown."

"If the expectations are like general citizenship then I think it would work,” said IUPUI student Jacob Lockhart. “But if the expectations are for something more, like a patrol or a policeman type role then no."

Retired IMPD Lt. Spencer Moore would coordinate the program. Moore has long been a bicycle enthusiast and is the father of slain IMPD Officer David Moore.

Straub said the bike patrol volunteers would be goodwill ambassadors for the city. He said they would likely be given safety training, uniforms, maps and police radios for their patrols.

"In no way would we encourage them or ask them to take police action,” Straub said. “They are there as the eyes and ears, they would be equipped with a radio, so we would ask that they would then call for assistance."

Straub said the volunteers would play a similar role of the many people who helped make the Super Bowl a safer place.

"Most of the compliments that we got during the Super Bowl were relative to the officers doing that outreach type work,” Straub said. “Helping somebody find a restaurant, helping somebody find a taxi stand. Helping them turn their car around in traffic. Those are the things that are more important to community policing and preventative policing and the community has a stake in that."

The students who spoke to Fox59 News weren’t so sure they’d be willing to take part.

"Probably not,” Lockhart said. “No I wouldn't do it. I love Indianapolis. I love riding and running on this trail but I like to spend my free time enjoying my hobbies."

"I would do it,” said IUPUI student Aaron Soellinger. “But I'm kind of an adventurous type.”

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