INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens joined the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Wednesday evening to ride their bikes through the streets of the Near East Side neighborhood of Indianapolis.
After responding to 11 of the city’s 114 homicides in this area alone, some of these streets have become all too familiar to IMPD – for all the wrong reasons.
But the rising rate of gun violence was not what brought officers to the parking lot of Tuxedo Park Baptist Church along North Grant Avenue Wednesday, instead, it was for a cookout, cycling and communication.
“We selected this particular area for this community bike ride because it is considered one of our hot spots and hot zones and we wanted to bring the community out together.”
IMPD is calling the event a “Slow Roll”, a community bike ride through the neighborhood to promote fellowship, goodwill and to come together as a community in an area police say is used to their presence – on their worst days.
“It’s my mission to change that and I can only change that one person at a time. By having a positive interaction with the community,” IMPD Patrol Officer Roman Williams-Ervin said. “We want people to see the police when we’re not there on their worst day and we want to show everyone the community and police department can come together, in this area, and take some pride and help take the community back as one.”
What better way to do that than with hotdogs, handlebars and happiness?
“We want to be that positive influence in the neighborhood,” Williams-Ervin said. “What better way to do that, at the start of summer, with a bike ride together. We must open lines of communication… and that starts with outreach efforts like this.”
Dozens of cyclists and hungry citizens alike pooled in the parking lot to hear from IMPD, to eat summer foods and to communicate. Those who wanted to cycle but didn’t bring a bike along were even offered some to borrow, courtesy of IMPD.
“I think that this is great. It’s great to see the police interacting with the residents of the community and I think it kinda diffuses some of the stigma, especially with a lot of the tension that’s been in the country and our area,” Taku Mangoro, an east side resident said. “I’m here to do my part also because, you know it’s one thing to talk about wanting to improve the neighborhood, I want to be out there helping.”
Mangoro hasn’t been directly impacted by the rising homicide rate but recognizes everyone can make a difference.
“My personal challenge to myself is to get to know my neighbors as much as I can and just know everybody around me,” Mangoro said. “I’m not sure how people receive it when it’s a once off. It’s like, oh, they thought about us just once and then – they’re gone now. I hope these events can continue.”
So too does another east side resident, Travis Walker, who wasn’t out riding, but was out on his front porch encouraging.
“To me this is really a blessing cause you really don’t see it – especially not in these type of neighborhoods,” Walker said. “I like what I saw, and it’d be very helpful if that community outreach effort continued to go on because more people would see it happening like that… and then it’d lead to more people that would get involved with it.”
Walker hopes, like many, that this idea can help end the violence. Especially for the children.
“When I see little babies getting hurt by this it hurts me and I think anybody that have a heart should feel that pain,” Walker said. “We’re in this together, as a community, because anything that can happen to somebody else can happen to you and yours so, just get rid of the violence and you don’t have to worry about none of that anymore.”
If you’d like to get involved or have any questions about future ‘Slow Rolls’ Officer Williams-Ervin would love to hear from you.
You can reach him by emailing him at RomanWilliams-Ervin@Indy.gov or by sending the department a message on their Facebook.
“I live in the inner city. I love the neighborhoods,” Williams-Ervin said. “So, for me it’s personal to give back to the city and every day I put this uniform on I’m giving back to the city – I’m not just volunteering. I’m giving my life to this community.”