Thursday, May 15, 2008

Aside: Downtown Safety

I received the weekly Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. newsletter yesterday. Stuck in the middle was this section:

Keeping Downtown Safe
Keeping Downtown safe is a top priority. You can help keep it safe. Fortunately, Downtown Indianapolis remains one of the safest areas of the city. With warmer weather and more outdoor activities, here are some tips you can use while out:
General Tips
1. Be aware. Know where you are and what's going on around you at all times.
2. Use alert and assertive body language. Walk with purpose, head up, back straight.
3. Avoid poorly lit areas at night and areas not visible from the street.
4. Don't walk or drive alone at night in unfamiliar areas where you could easily become lost.
Parking Tips
1. Secure your vehicle at all times. When you close a car door, lock it, whether you are inside or outside the car.
2. Always remove items from plain sight when you park your car. Anything of value should be removed from an unattended vehicle.
3. Ask for assistance or go with a coworker if you don't feel safe walking to your destination. Report crimes to the police. Even small crimes and minor thefts should be reported as they may be part of a developing trend. Call 911 for emergencies or call 327.3811 for non-emergencies.

This is notable because the primary purpose of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. is to advertise and promote downtown. Talking about potential safety issues only undermines that goal. Their emails usually provide a weekly list of events, a little bit of "RA-RA, Indianapolis is wonderful" with a sprinkling of downtown news. And, of course, there's always the obligatory "there are 66,000 parking spaces downtown" line to appeal to people that require parking within 20 feet of their destination. (The most recent email upped this number to 70,000, though I'm not sure where 4,000 new spaces popped up.)

This email provides the first instance that I've noticed where they even hint at the possibility that downtown isn't gloriously clean with flowers everywhere, sunshine every day and a free curb-side parking space in front of your destination. Lines like, "Use alert and assertive body language. Walk with purpose, head up, back straight" will not inspire people to go downtown when their alternatives are places like Olive Garden on 82nd St. It's almost like the heading for that section should have read "Admitting Downtown Isn't 100% Safe."

The whole thing strikes me as very odd and I'm not sure the reason that they're addressing downtown safety. Has there been a rash of downtown crime that's been kept under wraps or something?


bhorg said...

Wow, how embarrassing.

rodney said...

I've lived downtown for a few years now and I'm really curious how they massaged the numbers to get downtown to one of the safest areas of the city. Now honestly, I've never felt at any danger walking around downtown or my downtown neighborhood, but the reality is, statistically it is unsafe. If you're just comparing numbers of crimes committed, there's no way any other part of the city can compete. From 8-5 it's exponentially the densest part of the city. When you throw in the conventions and the weekend shoppers and bar hoppers there's no way you can say downtown has a low crime rate.

So if they aren't using numbers of crimes committed, what exactly are they basing the term "safest" on?

That said, I love downtown and would encourage almost anyone to move here. It's really a nice place and the neighborhoods are absolutely great. It just bugs me when statistics are made up.

Unknown said...

Rodney, I think you need to look up the term "rate." A crime rate refers to the number of crimes committed per person. So if a town of 1,000 people has one crime a day, and a city of one million has 1,000 crimes a day, that's the exact same crime rate. Since, as you say, downtown is the densest part of the city, it's easy to believe that it has the lowest crime rate.

Kevin said...

It's like they're implying downtown is nothing but parking spaces and bad people.  Better start packing some heat when I go to work now...

rodney said...

How would you define the population of downtown? Residents, employees, visitors or some combination thereof? My point is there's a lot of ways you could come up with that "rate" and I'm sure they chose the one that looked most favorable.

Anonymous said...

I really think you are reading too much into this. As with any metropolitan area, it is good to review basic safety tips. These can apply to downtown, or Greenwood, or Carmel.

CorrND said...

I could be reading too much into it. They do have a version of this information on their webpage, after all, so it's not like they're hiding from the safety issues downtown.

I just thought it was notable that they chose to put it in a mass mailing when they've never done such a thing before. I was just curious if there was some underlying reason for the timing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting timing, what wit the super bowl bid having gone out this week. The crime problem downtown is now the only real barrier to gettting a super bowl.

As for safety downtown, would you rather walk around Carmel at night or 16th and College. I used to live by the latter and I had to move cause of the petty crime and weirdos.

Indianapolis' homicide rate is double that of NYC. It's higher than the Bronx.

rodney said...

Our homicide rate is also lower than Miami's, which has hosted the most Super Bowls of any city.

In my opinion, if anything is keeping us from a Super Bowl it's a below freezing average temperature in February.