Police looking for fake Final Four gear while keeping Hoosiers safe downtown

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 3, 2015)– With 70,000 college basketball fans set to generate $70 million in spending for the Final Four this weekend, there’s more than enough money and out-of-town visitors to attract scam artists and police to Indianapolis.

The NCAA won’t say how much money it makes every year on apparel and souvenir sales, but it’s enough to keep agents and local police working everyday across the country seizing counterfeit merchandise.

“This is one of the biggest events of the year in college sports,” said Lindsay Victor, general counsel of Collegiate Licensing Company, the NCAA’s partner in policing fake college sports goods. It draws thousands and thousands of fans and it makes a big market and you get a lot of out-of-towners coming in trying to capitalize on that and cheat the consumer, to be perfectly honest.”

“We’ve seen it in a lot of different markets,” she said.  “There’s been products in Madison, Wisconsin, around the university campus that we’ve seen as well and we have people up there as well looking on the campuses of the universities that we represent. It’s also being sold on line and that’s another big kind of tell and it’s not just a bunch of people printing up t-shirts. You don’t really know what you’re getting.”

Victor said the quality and durability of counterfeit merchandise translates into, “you get what you pay for.”

“Counterfeit products, a lot of times, the quality of the printing is not that good. Colors tend to bleed in and out of each other, the quality of the actual t-shirt is substandard. A lot of times it will be seconds or second hand so there will be cut tags on it.”

The NCAA will be joined by IMPD detectives and agents from Homeland Security in monitoring licensed and unlicensed apparel sales.

Metro Police will assign officers from throughout the city to patrol and direct traffic on downtown streets this weekend. While the Final Four is a shorter celebration than Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, it spreads farther from downtown with three nights of outdoor concerts at White River State Park.

“We hope the weather breaks and we have full capacity there,” said ISP Superintendent Doug Carter whose agency has primary control over the concert site.  “Obviously we’ll have a presence there and we’ll be monitoring things both from afar and locally and be responding to those things that come our way.”

Carter said lessons learned during the Super Bowl and in the aftermath of the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 have not been lost on planners and concert venue crews.

“I think there were a lot of lessons learned during that period of time. This was the first time here in Indiana so we have a pretty solid plan over there right now. Folks will be able to get through those barricades in the event that they need to for whatever that might be.

“A whole lot was learned back in 2011 that will be incorporated into the planning from this point forward.”

While downtown Indianapolis has been plagued periodically with youth violence centered around Circle Centre and bus stop locations, IMPD has urged parents to accompany their children on Final Four weekend while the department will increase its presence in other locations.

“Broad Ripple is something we thought about,” said IMPD Deputy Chief Mike Bates. “Fountain Square is something we thought about and we actually added officers into those locations for that reason. Also the malls, in addition to the downtown mall, the Castleton Mall will have additional patrols up there of officers on duty that can respond.”

IMPD reminds visitors coming by car to downtown to expect heavy traffic, crowded parking lots and lots of pedestrians.

Commanders also advise drivers to not leave valuables in their parked vehicles.

Attendees at Fan Fest and the games at Lucas Oil Stadium will be advised to place items in clear plastic bags that are available for free throughout downtown to facilitate security access to the venue sites.

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