IMPD patrolling for people struggling in harsh cold

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind – Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers are concentrating their patrols on looking for anyone struggling in the dangerously cold weather hitting central Indiana.

Officer Tom McGraw, a 29-year veteran with the department, said the bitterly cold temperatures are the biggest threat to public safety right now. He and other officers have responded to multiple false alarms, caused by wind rattling windows and cold air bursting water pipes. He has also stopped to check on several people sleeping on the streets in the downtown area.

He said some people seem to be prepared for the weather.

“One guy was so covered with blankets, he was fine,” McGraw said. “Talked to him, he was warm, I actually felt his skin, he was warm.”

He said others were not ready for the harsh conditions.

“There was one guy didn’t have near enough stuff on,” McGraw said. “And we got him some blankets and then the other officer, we transported him over to Horizon House.”

Most of downtown Indianapolis felt virtually deserted during the day Wednesday, as most people either stayed home or made sure to stay inside. Officers are paying close attention to homeless camps, where some people are refusing to leave. 

The IMPD Homeless Unit has been making repeat visits to homeless camps, checking on people’s conditions and supplies, encouraging them to seek indoor shelter, and arranging transportation for those who need rides.

Officer McGraw stopped by one of those camps along the banks of the White River Wednesday morning. One man at the camp had just come out of his makeshift shelter.

“You’re definitely warm enough,” McGraw said. “You don’t need an ambulance or anything?”

“No I’m good,” the man replied.

“Well you seem good, you look good,” McGraw said.

With that, the man started walking off toward the downtown area.

“He actually seemed okay, as brutally cold as it is,” McGraw said. “He looked good, he wasn’t shivering or anything like that. He said he just got up, he was fine throughout the night and he was leaving to go.”

A woman staying at this homeless camp near the White River in downtown Indianapolis said she was one of 9 people taking shelter here. Photo taken January 30, 2019.

A short time later, a woman named Cheryl MacWilliams arrived at the camp after spending the night at the Wheeler Mission. She said she wanted to stay at the homeless camp so her belongings did get stolen from her tent. She said she was one of nine people still taking shelter at the camp.

“I got a lot of blankets, and I have a tank to keep me warm,” she said. “And there’s other people that come down here and give you food and give you clothing and they’re so nice.”

“Just stay warm,” she said. “That’s all we do, and start a fire. We all pretty much do the same thing.”

McGraw said officers won’t necessarily force a person to leave a homeless camp if the person seems to have adequate shelter, warmth and supplies. An officer will detain a person if it seems to be the only way to save them from injury or worse.

The check-ups and patrols are expected to continue through the next 24 hours, until the bitter air leaves central Indiana.

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