One of the city’s biggest events kicks off Thursday. The 43rd Annual Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration runs from July 11-21.
Police are once again beefing up security downtown this weekend. Hundreds of metro officers, along with State Police and Marion County sheriff deputies are expected to roam the streets and engage with crowds.
“When I say engaging, I mean actually talking to the individuals and to the young people,” said Michael Bates, Chief Deputy of IMPD.
On top of surveillance cameras and adding more lighting in the middle of street blocks, IMPD investigators will also be visiting the homes of gang members, warning them of the repercussions if they stir up trouble at Summer Celebration.
“We’ll be paying you a visit to talk about the conduct expected of you downtown,” said Rick Hite, IMPD Police Chief.
Police said violence, overall, has improved in the past few years during the event. Officers made 22 arrests last year, 18 fewer than 2011. It’s a far cry from its peak year in 2010. Seventy-five people were arrested, following a shooting that wounded nine people.
“Last year, there were less than three dozen arrests. Officers say there’s more arrests than that on a normal weekend downtown,” said Vernon Williams, Indiana Black Expo VP of Communications.
IBE said hotel occupancy has gone up from last year. They’re also hoping to reach record attendance of 300,000 people.
“It’s a lot of misconceptions out there because of some things that have happened not during the event, but just at the downtown area,” said Matthew Officer, an IBE staff member.
At 12, Officer attended his first Summer Celebration through Youth Media Initiative. The program introduces kids to video production through shooting and editing. Twenty-four years later, Officer returned as manager.
“It’s just great to be a part of something with such a long history,” he said. “It’s unfortunate people have been discouraged about attending, but it’s far from the case.”