Crime Watch 8

City rolls out plan to help downtown homelessness, business owners see no changes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Some downtown business owners tell News 8 the homeless situation is out of control and the city is not acting fast enough. Just last week, the city rolled out new initiatives and expanded existing programs to help control the issue.

This past weekend the owner of Soupremacy and the owner of Downtown Comics both had to call the police for help with two separate situations.

Soupremacy owner Danielle Cooney said she was approached and harassed outside of her store.

“He grabs the door and won’t let go. He just holds on to it and stares at me. It happened for probably 30 seconds, I finally get the door locked, called 911 and he just stares at me. Then he starts walking by and calling me names,” said Cooney.

She tells News 8 she has no way of knowing if that man was homeless, but she does feel like the police didn’t take her seriously when she made the call.

“I called because I thought somebody was trying to rob me and it took way too long for them to get here and then there wasn’t anything they could do when they got here,” said Cooney.

Owner of Downtown Comics Doug Stephenson has made dozens of similar calls about the issues downtown.

“I’ve been in several near fights. I got in one Saturday. I had to face off with this guy to get him away from two women on a patio out there, he wouldn’t leave them alone,” said Stephenson.

Police said they’ve increased patrols to specifically target dealers who are providing dangerous drugs to the homeless. They are also asking people to stop bringing food to large groups and instead donate to an organization.

Deputy Director of the city’s Office of Health and Public Safety Matt Giffin said many of the programs that were shut down during the pandemic are re-opening and expanding. He added Mayor Hogsett is working with the city and IMPD to get the issue under control.

“I’m hoping that we can kind of hang together while we figure out solutions to this problem collectively. As the mayor announced last week, we do have some solutions in the works we need to be creative and keep thinking of new solutions,” said Giffin.

Police said not every person in the large groups is homeless, some are in transitional housing or addiction recovery programs.

News 8 has also noticed the increased number of groups gathering around City Market and the circle, at times we have counted up to 50 people huddled together in different spots around the city.

City leaders tell us they are working on solutions and we may not see an immediate change.