Bloomington looks to tackle aggressive panhandling, increases downtown police presence
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Just in time for thousands of students to return to campus at Indiana University, Bloomington’s mayor and police chief announced major security upgrades to portions of downtown.
“Everything I’ve heard about Bloomington, I’m not from Bloomington, was just here for the first time, it’s fairly safe from what I know,” said one man, walking around campus with his son.
But while school was out of session, a spike in summer crime took its toll on downtown Bloomington.
“That’s one of the big problems downtown is we’ve seen a huge increase in aggressive panhandling,” said Bloomington Police Chief, Mike Diekhoff.
Aggressive panhandling and a surge in violence downtown, just blocks from the IU campus, has city officials implementing a security pilot program.
“We’re just trying to make the downtown more civil, safer, and more comfortable for people to come to,” said Diekhoff.
Among the new changes, are six new downtown surveillance cameras.
“We’re picking strategic locations along the B-Line trail which is our trail project which runs through the downtown area,” said Diekhoff.
Other locations include in People’s and Seminary Parks. Diekhoff said downtown will see an increase in uniformed and undercover police as well.
“It wasn’t as if one event precipitated this, it’s been a conversation that’s been ongoing and I felt it was time to take some steps,” said Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton.
While a surge in summer crime prompted the security upgrades, they’re happening just in time for the start of school. The recent conviction of Hannah Wilson’s killer is fresh on the mind of many IU parents. For them all these safety upgrades don’t go unnoticed.
“I’m very thrilled to hear about this to be quite honest. About the increased presence and the use of security cameras, I think those could go a long way,” said a Mom dropping off her daughter for her sophomore year at IU.
“We’re going to try a bunch of things, like I said, this is the start of a process and we’ll see what works,” said Hamilton.
It hasn’t been determined yet what kind of security cameras will be used or how much the pilot program will cost, but city officials say it will all be in place by the end of the year.