(This column originally ran in February 2013. However, in the wake of the recent incident at Circle Center Mall, we felt it was appropriate to republish it.)
by Douglas Stephenson
Even though “hanging out” has been a rite of passage for U.S. teens for decades, the practice has become an over-populated (and recently violent) problem in downtown Indianapolis. After a 16-year-old fired a gun outside Circle Centre Mall last Friday, there has been a lot of hand-wringing, finger-pointing, and blame-avoidance in the interest of public relations.
This has all led to a statement crafted in the depths of the Simon Properties legal department indicating that they stand with other downtown merchants, support IMPD, and want a pleasant downtown environment, BUT “…we agree with Mayor Ballard, who stated that parental/guardian responsibility is the key to curbing youth incidents.”
Fair enough, but the parents in question aren’t taking responsibility for their kids.
While I’m not a lawyer, policy-expert, or sociologist – I’m a pragmatist who has an interest in the downtown community and would rather provide (admittedly brainstormed) ideas than fault. So I present for your scrutiny and LOLGETALOADOFTHISGUY amusement – IndyBands™
IndyBands is a wristband system, such as those utilized by waterparks and other large venues, employed by downtown merchants, hotels, Convention Center, Circle Centre, and IMPD. When downtown merchants opt into the IndyBands organization, they would prohibit minors admittance to their establishments without adult supervision after 7:00 p.m. Adult supervision would constitute one of two states: actual parental presence or wearing a wristband, which indicates that a minor has been qualified by parents/guardians to be out on his or her own in the downtown community.
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Wristbands would be offered by
- Downtown hotels, for guests with teenage children. A simple safety explanation and signed-form corresponding to a wristband number would be well received by visiting parents, IMO.
- Simon Properties, for local parents possessing ID and contact info who feel their kids are responsible enough to move about downtown unattended. A check-in station would be manned by security personnel and/or part-timers hired for the weekends. There are plenty of underpaid social workers looking for extra part-time work. I know because I employ them.
- IMPD, for the same local kids covered under the CC Mall check-in procedures. They would have a check-in station in the downtown precinct next to Union station
- Indianapolis Convention Center, for visitors with children in the form of pre-registration badges/bands. Large conventions of kids such as FFA would be able to use their badges as wristband substitutes for IndyBands the weekend of their convention.
While existing laws would apply to minors on public property, private members of IndyBands would be able to ensure parental responsibility as a requisite of entry to their property. Should a dispute occur with a minor over entry, IMPD would be called in to settle the dispute – and enforce any applicable statutes violated.
Such a cooperative approach must be implemented to tackle the problem of unattended children in the downtown district on weekends. While the current opinion is for IMPD to increase its presence and enforce curfew laws, this approach is reactive and a drain on city resources with marginal results. The business community, IMPD, and City-County Building must work together for a complete and proactive solution. We must not continue to shake our collective heads, blame poor parenting, and watch downtown deteriorate into an urban Lord of the Flies.
Douglas Stephenson is a small business owner and has been a downtown merchant for the past 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.