AGDAILY has had staff attend the National FFA Convention & Expo ever since the publication launched in 2016. Indianapolis has always been a fun and welcoming place, where caution is always prudent (this is a big city, after all), but the atmosphere never felt threatening or outright hostile.
So it was with some alarm that we received a text message from one of our contributors that said: “Downtown Indy is really rough right now. Worse than it was last year and worse than it’s been in previous years.”
Yikes! But as much as it hurts to hear that, he has a point that’s worth sharing.
Rick Snyder, president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police, has been particularly vocal on the matter, and on Wednesday, he shared this startling tweet:
LET THIS SINK IN: 19 Homicides in 19 Days of October in INDY
Crisis of Crime affecting economic development, shuttering businesses and sending families packing
— Rick Snyder (@RickFOP86) October 19, 2022
October has been the deadliest month in Indianapolis this year (for comparison, August, and September each had 17 homicides). While it’s alarming that 19 people were killed in the first 19 days in a city with 900,000 residents, the rate is actually lower than last year’s 34 homicides in October 2021 (which comes out to more than one per day).
But saying something is “rough” involves a lot more than just homicides. Recent news reports talk of a family who is moving away after at least 45 gunshots have been aimed at their house during the past three months. Other news outlets talks about how a Starbucks on the city’s east side was robbed at gunpoint.
Last week, the Starbucks location at the iconic Monument Circle in the heart of downtown announced it was closing on Oct. 28 due to what the company called safety concerns.
“The incidents at this store are at a level that we don’t feel we can provide a warm and safe experience that people expect when they go to a Starbucks location,” a spokesperson for Starbucks told NBC local 13News.
Of course, because there is always another perspective out there, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Downtown District Commander Phil Burton claims that his officers “were not made aware of any type of safety concerns” at the Monument Circle Starbucks.
In talking about the crime in Indianapolis, none of this is being said to scare anyone, and having seen the sheer number of people in blue corduroy jackets who flood the streets around the Indiana Convention Center at this time every year, there is comfort in numbers. FFA advisors are great about keeping their students together when traveling to and from the convention center, and there is a responsibility on everyone to report anything suspicious that they see.
There are lots of sites that suggest tips for staying safe while traveling in a big city. Some of the big ones from Nationwide include:
- Do your research: Get to know your destination in depth before you arrive, and know who to call in case of an emergency.
- Don’t draw attention: While everyone’s going to know you’re an out-of-towner because of your FFA jacket, it’s also important to approach people carefully if you need to ask for directions and to make it difficult for pickpockets to steal money and other personal items.
- Keep your fellow travelers updated: No matter whether you’re going, let some of your FFA classmates know where you’re headed and when you’re expecting to meet back up with them. Communication apps such as GroupMe are great for keeping large groups in the loop. And if you don’t have your own phone, stick close to a friend who does.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Don’t let your guard down to snap the perfect picture for your social media platforms. Keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times and use good judgment when talking to strangers. A big part of the joy of traveling is the opportunities it affords to meet new people and learn about their cultures. But if someone near you is acting suspiciously, or if you feel uncomfortable, leave the area immediately.
The National FFA Convention can be one of the most exciting experiences students will ever have while in high school, and they should make every effort to go and have fun in downtown Indianapolis. However, just keep your guard up if situations don’t feel quite right.