INDIANAPOLIS– Dawson Day said he doesn’t visit downtown Indianapolis much because of its reputation for crime and a perceived lack of safety.
“I feel like there’s always something going on around there. It’s just like constant crime all the time and I think its best if people stay away from there, honestly,” he said.
George Stergiopoulos has his hands full opening a new location at Bottleworks just off Massachusetts Avenue, but he came in early Sunday morning to scrap food and melted cheese and debris off the windows of his restaurant near Monument Circle.
“Just vandalism, some of the locals just rubbed food all over the window, just threw cooked food all over the floor, just a mess,” he said. “We’re constantly cleaning something down here.”
For every positive note about a convention coming to town, a new restaurant opening or a visitor returning, the reality is, for many, downtown Indianapolis remains an unsafe and dirty place.
“It’s always a mess. It smells and garbage always on the sidewalk, something has to be done,” said Stergiopoulos. “The leadership has to do something in this community.”
Downtown Indy, Inc., has hired street ambassadors to help clean downtown sidewalks.
Downtown has been the site of three murders this year and countless shootings. In the last three weeks, CBS4 has acquired this partial list of downtown reported crimes:
- May 28: Sexual assault 215 North New Jersey Street
- June 11: Person shot 365 South Meridian Street
- June 12: Robbery 451 East Market Street
- June 13: Knife assault 400 East Wabash Street
- June 14: Knife assault 500 East Market Street
- June 14: Knife assault 520 East Market Street
On June 7, Dawson Day nearly became one of those victims.
“This homeless man asked me for money and I told him I don’t have any cash on me and apologized and I went about my time, but he gave me kind of like a creepy vibe or feeling, I guess, and so I ran to my car, I left my wallet in there, I grabbed out my drivers license and gun permit and my gun and tucked it in the back of my shirt.”
Day had been taking photographs of Monument Circle for a social media influencer client just off the east spoke on Market Street.
“Then out of nowhere, him along with two other guys came down this alley and was asking for my Apple Watch and my phone and my wallet and all my money. I told them to stay away from me, and then they still kept trying to come up to me so I pulled my gun out on them.
“I told them I had a weapon on me and I proceeded to pull it out and aimed the gun at them and they all took off running at that point.
“I was scared, like my heart dropped to my chest. I never experienced something like that before,” he said.
Day filed a police report. An IMPD officer looked for the would-be robbers but they disappeared down Pennsylvania Street.
“I feel like IMPD needs to figure out something like build another jail or make room for more people and cut down on crime,” said Day. “It’s just like only putting people away for doing the big crimes but ignoring the petty crimes is just gonna make everything worse.”
Stergiopoulos said the petty crimes are making the center of the city unlivable.
“We got to get and establish some law and order in this community. We gotta clear these streets at night, people parking anywhere they want, the Circle blocked, homeless people everywhere,” he said. “Just because you’re homeless or you’re poor doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. We got a public toilet on the side in the alley over here. It’s always a mess.”
The alley running alongside Giorgio’s also leads to the back entrance to the Hilbert Circle Theatre where concertgoers will soon be returning for a new schedule of performances by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
“Where is the concern for the citizens who have to deal with this disgusting situation?” asked Stergiopoulos. “There is absolutely no regard for law and order in this community and I do not believe the police can do their job.”
Downtown IMPD officers tell CBS4 that they often have no authority to enforce quality of life offenses as loiterers can sit or sleep on sidewalks as long as they are out of the way, public intoxication, in of itself, is not a crime, limited panhandling is not illegal. Scooters are banned from operating on sidewalks, though, pedestrians are still left to dodge two-wheeled visitors or walking around the parked vehicles.
“Downtown officers address quality of life issues,” reads an IMPD statement to CBS4. “Officers have discretion regarding what action to take.
“Our Homeless Unit does an outstanding job of doing outreach in our community daily.
“We work closely with all our outreach partners on problem-solving in terms of homelessness to assist those individuals who are living outdoors in an effort to improve their quality of life as well.”
Later this month, IMPD will begin ticketing and towing vehicles parked along the inner curb of Monument Circle.
From the Circle east to City Market, Market Street and its intersecting streets are under construction, leaving traffic snarled and blocking walk-in customers and deliveries for small businesses.
“Our three-minute deliveries are taking 12-15 minutes, and at rush hour, they can take 20-25 minutes. We can’t do business like this. Every street in the city is tore up,” said Stergiopoulis. “It’s relentless. What do they expect from us?”
Stergiopoulos said his new restaurant at the Bottleworks is already doing 25% more business than Giorgio’s just off the Circle and other vendors at the City Market have said they fear diners will head up Mass Ave. for a meal as the Market has suffered from empty stalls and aisles during street construction, and their lot is projected to only get worse pending the eventual abandonment of downtown and the City-County Building by the courts and the Marion County Sheriff and Jail which will further erode their daily customer base.
“We just want our community to be safe. To be safe for us and our employees and our customers,” said Stergiopoulos. “These are things I shouldn’t have to worry about on a regular basis as a business owner.”
Day said it’s not something he should have to worry about also.
“I feel like there’s just always something going on there, like you should be able to walk around your city and feel safe and stuff, and you don’t have that in downtown Indianapolis or in a lot of parts of Indianapolis anymore.”
Day’s client wanted him to shoot photographs of Indianapolis to post on social media sites. The attempted robbery convinced him to relocate to get pictures.
“I went to the mall in Greenwood,” he said. “I’m getting out of here.”