As regular readers have undoubtedly noticed, I frequently use this blog as a platform to vent–and that’s what I plan to do today. Usually, my rants are political, but despite political overtones, this one is personal.

First, some background.

I use Facebook primarily as a method for “pushing out” this blog–I very rarely post about personal matters, and because I am essentially viewing the site as a marketing tool, I have accepted lots of Facebook “friends” I’ve never met. Recently, one of them posted about the prosecutor’s race in my county, and that led to a string of dismissive (and easily disproven) comments about crime and downtown Indianapolis.

I have lived in downtown’s historic neighborhoods since 1980, and eighteen months ago, my husband and I downsized to an apartment in the heart of downtown’s central business district.

I now live barely two blocks from a Starbucks that the company is closing, a decision accompanied by pious declarations to the effect that closure was impelled by concerns for customer safety. Believing that excuse requires ignoring contemporaneous Starbucks closures in SIXTEEN other cities, and the fact that safety concerns seem not to have affected the other NINE downtown Starbucks locations. (Given the enormous number of competing coffee shops operating in just the Mile Square, my guess is over-saturation…)

Several people commenting on the post used the Starbucks closure to assert that downtown Indianapolis is not only unsafe, but–and I quote– a “shithole.”

Let me describe that “shithole” for those who don’t live in my neighborhood.

Saturday night, I attended an event at the downtown History Center. On my way home (four blocks), I passed restaurants filled to overflowing with diners inside and out (it was still a balmy evening, and downtown is blessed with numerous eateries offering outside dining.) Throngs of young couples were strolling up and down Massachusetts Avenue–a revitalized stretch of street hosting bars, restaurants, retail shops and theaters– all of which my husband and I frequent.

On foot.  We also walk two blocks to our preferred grocery, cleaners and hardware store…

Counterintuitively for a “shithole,” downtown Indianapolis attracts ongoing construction of apartment complexes and condominiums. People keep moving downtown to occupy them. (For the past few years, new construction has been so constant my husband and I joke as we pass a new complex: “Gee–that wasn’t there last Tuesday!”) As a recent report from the Indianapolis Star put it, renters and buyers continue to show a “high demand for Downtown living, a trend driven by amenities such as walkable streets, contemporary restaurants and bustling nightlife.”

If there’s a legitimate concern about downtown living, it’s the cost:a lot of  people are paying top dollar to enjoy the ambience and amenities of our downtown “shithole.”

Visit the website for Downtown Indy and find lists of residential options (both affordable and “wow, that’s pricey”) along with lists of the dozens of festivals, venues and events enjoyed by the 30,000+ of us who currently live downtown– as well as the thousands who come down to attend  them.

Indianapolis does have a crime problem–as most cities do–but it is primarily located in outer, impoverished neighborhoods. 

That said, I’m pretty sure I know what accounts for the ignorant accusations about downtown Indy. 

When I look at the throngs of people on the streets, most are young, and many are Black, Brown or Asian. A number of couples are interracial.  Unfortunately, depressing numbers of  Americans continue to equate nonwhite races with crime and decay. I’d be willing to bet good money that the people posting sneering comments about downtown Indianapolis hold stereotypes that equate “downtown” with “ghetto” and “scary.”

Prejudice can work both ways, of course.

For years, when my husband and I would drive past those grim, cookie-cutter, tree-less suburban developments that clearly require long commutes to work or shop, he would observe that “this is the environment people are willing to accept in order to avoid Black neighbors.” I would have to remind him that not every resident of suburbia or exurbia is a bigot–that there are non-racist reasons nice people might want a big yard or a quiet neighborhood.

I’ll end this screed by taking my own advice, and conceding that downtown living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The vitality, walkability and street life I treasure can be off-putting to others, and those differences are just differences–they don’t necessarily reflect ignorance or prejudice.

On the other hand, when someone describes the center of my city–my neighborhood–in demonstrably inaccurate, pejorative terms, I’m pretty confident I know where that opinion comes from. And it isn’t pretty.

It’s just one more data point demonstrating the prevalence and persistence of  American racism.


  1. And how do all those people who’ve never been to downtown Indianapolis get their ‘shithole’ opinions?

    From personal (anecdotal) experience: Television, particularly Fox who seems to delight in every murder/robbery occuring in their viewing area, but in particular it seems, the ones occurring downtown.

  2. I believe “shithole” is another Trumpism. Expect more of that in the coming years as America, or the USA, shows its ugly self to the world.

    The others being scorned aren’t Jews this time but brown people who are displaced mainly by our initiatives. Therefore, we are manufacturing this misery in the USA/UK and most of the EU.

    One can only SMDH at all the attempts to purge ourselves from our history and the migration of non-WASP males into our communities – especially city centers. 😉

  3. I lived at 14th and New Jersey from 1980 to 1988. Downtown Indy was transforming at that time from a neglected inner city to one that was returning to a residential area, that was diverse and inclusive. Many of my friends and co-workers could not imagine at that time how I could live amongst the “unwashed,” the opinion they had of the inner city residents. The impression then as now is that inner city in any major metro area is a crime ridden area, which then as is now is untrue. My opinion is too many guns are the root of crimes in any place in the US. But Indianapolis is a place that I rarely have any fear of living whether I was in the burbs or in the Old Northside. Indy is a great place that doesn’t deserve the dangerous label from a huge corporation that wants to use a lame excuse for their poor business decisions.

  4. Sheila; people who do not go downtown probably find the accusations about crime believable because of their own areas being crime ridden. The public never knows about the majority of major crimes going on in this city and many others. My daughter-in-law works at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Church on East Washington Street; rarely a week has gone by without her texting me about shootings, stabbings, fights, etc on church property, the criminals from the apartments next door are junkies, drunks and whores. Police have had to come to the school and church to stop junkies from trying to break through Lourdes’ locked doors and remove passed out drunks and junkies from under bushes. The apartments closed about 2 weeks ago after a dead body was found, not long after someone from there shot at the Lourdes’ yard worker, police chased him and shot him in the leg, but nothing about the shoot out with police to remove those removed from the apartments who broke back into the building to live there. No police report about the bullet hole she found in the 4th grade school room window. This is not the only area of Indianapolis where these things are going on. One of our blog commenters last year had to duck behind her full grocery cart and car along with other Kroger shoppers at East 10th and Shortridge Road due to a shooting on Shortride. (I hope she comes forward to tell what happened). Never anything public was found about what the “official looking” people were who surrounded a car and the shooting started. One morning a year or so ago while on my morning walk I witnessed a violent scene at East 17th and Pasadena when a pickup truck sped around the corner onto 17th Street, driver jumped out of the truck, parked it in the middle of the street, to face the man with a knife running toward him. They circled one another till a woman in a white car with a boy about 10 years old in the front seat tried several times to hit the man from the pickup with her car. He jumped into his truck and backed off of 17th Street when a black car joined the woman in the white car to chase him. I stopped at my friend’s house to warn her but she jerked me inside; she had been watching and was afraid for me. When things appeared quiet I left; further down 17th Street was the white car parked at the house where police are often seen, the black car pulled up and parked. I E-mailed IMPD Community East about the problem but they didn’t respond and my friend said no police ever showed up at the problem house. I was mugged, permanently injured and robbed on my own driveway at 11:00 one Monday morning. That did get a lot of publicity on TV because my son posted on Facebook what his wife calls my “hole in the head” picture, sitting in the ambulance. My granddaughter saw the picture and immediately called her friend who was sister to the local Fox 59 News reporter who found me at my son’s the next day. I was victim number 3 of 4 elderly women attacked by the same couple; IMPD under cover officers had been “following” them since the Thursday before when they attack a 90 year old woman in the drive through line at Steak and Shake. Standing in line at Dollar Tree not long ago when a young man behind me suddenly ran out the door carrying items; both cashiers and another employee ran after him, leaving cash registers unattended. All of this happened in or barely outside of Irvington area; once one of the finest areas in Indianapolis. Watta world, whatta world!

    Why are surprised to see the crimes reported in other cities in areas where crime isn’t considered a problem? We are not safe anywhere at any time of day or night. How many other bloggers will come forward with their own stories about their own neighborhoods in other cities and states?

  5. Back to Sheila’s thoughtful assessment of the quality of life downtown Indy. If you are looking for trouble you will find it. I hear the comments about gun violence in our city. Like many of you, J share your concern.

    However, I have lived and worked in central business districts around the world. None of them surpass the special ambiance of downtown Indy. If you are looking for a pedestrian quality of life, you will find it in downtown Indy. It is why Indy gets high scores for return ability of mid size conventions. It is also why Shiela’s observations about living downtown resonate with so many others I hear from.

  6. Like JoAnn I too live in a part of Indianapolis that is known for its high crime level. The near east side. Three murders in the last two weeks. All on East Washington Street. None down the block where I live.
    The block where I live has taken back a measure of peacefulness due to a neighborhood effort to join with the police department and fight back. Many neighbors put up security cameras and extra outdoor lighting. Code violations have been persistently reported, and residents readily call the police for crimes. We have a neighborhood site on Facebook where information is exchanged about all manner of events. Most recently the city has installed a gunshot detector at the end of the block. We are hopeful that that measure will help with the local gun violence.
    BUT… all of these measures will be for naught until this country comes together on what needs to be done about guns and the hopelessness that our economic system has wrought on society.
    P.S. the incident at 10th and Shortridge that Jo Ann wrote about was witnessed by me. It was some kind of a drug take down involving the State Police and Drug Enforcement. No one was hurt… just scared. We would know more about these things if we had a REAL news media here in Indy….but alas, we do not.

  7. This comment made me laugh out loud 😂 :
    “a lot of people are paying top dollar to enjoy the ambience and amenities of our downtown “shithole.”

  8. Just a quick note, or maybe not so quick lol!

    Everyone’s heard of Gene Kelly I’m sure, one of the world’s most famous dancers. He ended up moving to Paris and live there till he died.

    He was a staunch Catholic, but when he visited Mexico, he was disgusted by what he saw concerning the Catholic church. The church did not help the impoverished, they didn’t pray for the impoverished, but they preyed on the impoverished. It’s quite an interesting piece of history, you should read it sometime.

    In these terrible times in which we live, where does a person go? Where do they seek shelter from the savagery they deal with day in and day out. Every neighborhood has its demons as they say. A lot of folks just feel they will deal with the devil they know.

    When murder has become a sport, or, a ritual to join a group or a gang, society has already collapsed.

    The beginnings of Anarchy are already here, of course there are many good and honest individuals, but, that’s not going to save society.

    When individuals cannot satisfy their physical hunger, or cannot find shelter, or, are sick without the ability to seek healthcare, these are all tenants of society’s collapse.

    Every city that I’m aware of has these same issues. Groups of young people looting stores, people being shot to death while sitting in their cars, people driving down the expressway murdered by other drivers on hunting expeditions. The churches that folks believed in at one time, are basically useless and have become just another political wing that is paralyzed towards its constituency but still expect it’s constituency to empty their pockets.

    The government, political realm, religious realm, does not even remotely attempt to be compassionate, there is no attempt for empathy. Only empty words! Empty words to acquire power and influence, but, power and influence at what cost? Well, we see the cost.

    There is no coming together for the greater good, because, the greater good includes those that we don’t agree with.

    “And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness, the love of the greater number will grow cold” (Matthew 24: 11 – 12)

    The apostle Paul also mentioned, that in those days,”people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.”(2 Timothy 3:1 – 4)

    You don’t think these things are happening today? Happening on a level that they haven’t at any time in history even during the world wars? Yes armies fought against each other, but the societies of the countries of the world are collapsing today. There is no love of neighbor, and definitely no love of God and his word which is in Scripture.

    So let’s say we have a worldwide drought, which is actually what’s happening today, rivers are drying up around the world. Conflicts are destroying farm and cropland, they’re probably will be a famine that is on a worldwide level. Will Society be able to withstand that? Well, Society has not withstood it, and, it’s close to extreme Anarchy. When people don’t have food, you’ll see anarchy! But, everyone goes about their business wearing their blinders.

    In Matthew and Mark, Christ warned, they’ll be a time when it will be so bad, people will be asking the mountains to fall over them. At the same time, men and women will be marrying and conducting business as usual. Basically fiddling as Rome Burns as they say.

    It is what it is, and it’ll get worse! I’ve come to that realization a long time ago, humanity cannot direct its own steps. They have no solution! History repeats, until there is no more history! It really is sad, and in many ways fearful! Personally, my faith allows me not to be afraid, because, I’ve been reading about this for a long long time, and my faith has gotten much stronger the worst things become.

    But hey, that’s my observation and that of my friends.

  9. Thank you for this post on the continued vibrancy of downtown Indy. I live in Fort Wayne and had heard that there are many empty office buildings downtown in the wake of so many professionals working remotely during Covid and continuing to work remotely thereafter, and that gang activity was taking over an abandoned downtown.

  10. It’s unfortunate that your assessment is dead on. things are definitely changing, it will be lengthy and likely never complete. Elitism comes with spending a big chunk of a salary earned at a modern day corporate sweatshop. Perfection is an abstraction the is frequently thrown around but hardly ever understood. Some of those who use it are just big brats who know little or nothing about the real world. This is my first comment, Dr. Kennedy. Thanks for this forum that never fails to inspire and give hope that human beings are not just stupid animals.

  11. My son and his fiancee live and work in Indianapolis. They are going to be married next year in your beautiful downtown library. I have visited them and been very impressed with the places I have seen.
    As has been stated on this site many times, fear is the easiest motivator.

  12. Sheila, it is nice to read your description of Downtown. As an ex-pat native of N.Y.C., “vibrant and bustling”
    warms my heart. Is it Faux News that paints such a gloomy picture of Downtown? No surprise. They paint
    negative pictures of anything they want, to further their odious, toxic agenda.
    On the same day that HCR reports on lowered unemployment in the country, Faux News highlights “growing
    unemployment” and crime, days, now, before the mid-terms.
    Vent away!

  13. One person’s shithole is another’s palace. Whichever position they choose reflects on how they perceive the world.

  14. The “downtown” vibe of restaurants , bars and entertainment is driven by gentrification by young professionals. Working class and poor folks are pushed just outside where they can be ignored and left to fester in the crimes of hopelessness.

  15. More people, more poverty, and more population density = more crime. That’s arithmetic.

    Criminals go where they can profit from crime.

  16. Linda,

    Lol, you could be on to something 🤔🥰

    Everyone here says what they believe and, I would assume, believe what they say! 💔

  17. I am a devoted reader of Professor Kennedy’s blog, but rarely post here. Downtown Indy is in fact a wonderful area of Indianapolis. My diverse neighborhood is 12 minutes from downtown an advantage we love. Our claim to “crime fame” was the internationally covered murder of the young pregnant mother, Amanda Blackburn, in 2015. Just recently the murderer was finally sentenced. Did this diminish our love for our neighborhood? No, in fact when this occurred, we gathered with the IMPD to assist in finding the killers. That day, I met for the first time, neighbors who had lived here for decades. We put up posters, shared home video camera feeds with the police. The City gave us an award that year once the murderers were caught. The City is directing millions into local nonprofits in an attempt to deal with crime and violence. One aspect I never hear addressed is – Parents. Until young people obtain the guidance, support, love and education many of us received in our own homes, I fear this wave of crime will continue. The City needs to collaborate with organizations providing skill building for parents before their children seek the wrong path to belonging. I love downtown Indy!

  18. Once again, SSK hits a home run.

    SSK, you’ve spent a lot of time preaching and teaching about civics comptency. You’re right of course, and I think that ignorance lends itself to quick conclusions. Which are oft wrong.

    When we know more about our city’s governance, we know how it works. What funds basic needs, and how we can influence that spending. The City County Council just passed a record budget, with record spending for law enforcement and innovative crime-fighting programs. Some of those programs will take time to sink in. Our mayor, council and prosecutor have tried every reasonable program they can. And they’ll keep trying.

    How many of us interacted with the mayor, prosecutor, sheriff and city county council,, regarding this budget?

    And: when too many people have too many guns, we’re heading down the wrong path.

  19. I’ve always thought of Indy as a nice little city. I was born and raised on the south side very close to Garfield Park. Downtown was never far away. Nearly everyone north of Washington Street apparently thought Greenwood began at South Street, so the southside was ignored by most of the city, including every politician not named Cantwell or Mahern. Crime was unheard of in my neighborhood. Why? Let me propose a hypothesis. We were a part of a neighborhood. People watched out for one another and if people did anything they shouldn’t, it got reported quickly, starting with juvenile pranks. Everyone knew everyone else’s kids. Step out of line and your parents would know about it before you got home. Strangers in the neighborhood stood out like sore thumbs. In addition to all of that, almost nobody owned a gun.

    Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? We can do it again. We can get to know our neighbors and our neighborhoods. We can beat our swords into plowshares. We just have to want to do it badly enough to change those who would propagate the ownership of weapons of war by individuals. Replace them with people who don’t fear the NRA.

  20. Peggy – love your idealism, but…this is not another bit of “Red v/s Blue”. This is another result of deep culture change by generations, reflected differently in different wealth groups, but at its heart, the same. This is about the generation of “adults” now 35-55. They live by different mantras than we old fogies: “I couldn’t care less how I am viewed by society,. I live my life according to the morals, views and standards I create. As long as I believe in myself, I really do not care what others think. Morality is ultimately a matter of personal opinion. Everyone should tolerate everyone else, take care of their own business and, hopefully, get along.” Strong suggest reading Generation Me” by Dr. Jean Twenge.

    We will see the results of the above attitudes in a few weeks…

  21. John – Wow. Your faith in the writings of guys who lived 2,000 years ago seems to be blinding you to all good things today. Personally, there is no time in history that I would rather live in than today. And NOT because I’m looking forward to apocalypse.

  22. Hey, Laurie at 8:58 am:

    I’ve got a female friend that has sold her home in Muncie to move into an apartment project in downtown Ft. Wayne based on the rental prices. Ft. Wayne will soon be flooded by young people with high incomes patronizing all the excellent amenities that come with living in a city center.

    As for gentrification, it does happen, but that’s why we need wise central managers running our city centers. I’m not sure democratically elected officials are the route we need to use in the next wave because awarding contracts to political hacks with kickbacks isn’t the best way to grow an urban environment.

  23. The “amenities” /gentrification of downtowns has a new rapidly growing aspect here in NC – “social drinking districts”. Such designated areas allow people to walk about with alcohol in cups. Entertaining ourselves to death? Why vote when I can swig and rock?

  24. My wife quit going to a hairdresser whose patrons were from “over the mountain” in the Birmingham metro. They would make ridiculous statements about how dangerous Birmingham is. Sure, in the poorest neighborhoods on the far West and East sides, it’s dangerous. But my wife runs on the Rotary Trail and Railroad Park every other day. She knows the regulars who know her as well. We live in a delightful neighborhood, Avondale, known as the Brooklyn of the South. There’s no other neighborhood in the whole state that I would choose over the one I’m in. Still, we see the same sort of trolls on the FB group “I Believe in Birmingham” all the time.

  25. Statistics show that red dominated states have the higher number of death by gun than blue states. When anyone can buy and carry a lethal weapon, no questions asked, what should be expected? Any disagreement of any kind can quickly escalate, tempers and bruised egos result in deadly outcomes, women and children are the most vulnerable. Suicide attempts are much more successful when a gun is at hand. Alcohol and drugs distort reality and inhibitions fall to rash and thoughtless actions. Guns make it so much easier and more deadly.
    When people are desperate or without hope, what matters in the moment dictates outcomes. No thought to the long term.
    We are reverting.

  26. Sharon Miller,

    At least you didn’t say the good old days! I guess when we look back to those good old days, there were a lot of wars, pandemics, religious fanaticism, and an amazing amount of cruelty by governments. Back in the 11th century and the 15th/16th century, half of the Earth’s population was wiped out from famine, pestilence, and other pandemics like the pandemic of torture and the pandemic of witch hunting and the pandemic of politics intertwined with religion.

    Has humanity become more enlightened? Humanity still hates its neighbors because of skin color or facial features or cultural differences or financial Cast, or class level…

    Government can’t even agree on who won an election, there is no respect amongst different tribes of humanity. No, humanity does not love their neighbor, and humanity definitely does not love god, so, I would have to say, this planet can be blown to smithereens at the push of a button! Back then, people had knives, now, they have automatic weapons, ak-47s, ar-15s, 9 mm with 30 shot clips. Better? Not hardly.

  27. I lay odds the people calling it shitholes have never bothered to travel downtown Indpls or visit Mass. Avenue which is very walkable and has been for at least 2 decades.

    All cities, rural or urban have crime–are their portions of Indpls that you need to be a tad mindful when traveling?. Sure. I was a Marion County Health Dept nurse and my area was Fountain Square, downtown, all the way to the airport. I had to be very aware of my surroundings.

    Nursing school was in St. Louis and we were allowed to barely stop at stop lights and keep going in certain neighborhoods.

    I started to take my friend downtown and she never left Plainfield, NEVER, left the area. She initially would get freaked out by diversity. smh. Nicest lady but wowza. I would tell her they do not give two shits about us and you need to broaden your horizon. Lets go to Front Page for some Long Islands!! 🙂

    Curious which SB–I know they closed the Michael Jordan one which was located off of College and 38th and Meridian and 38th. The one on Mass Ave is packed all the time.

  28. When we lived in Indy, we loved Broad Ripple and unfortunately haven’t lived anywhere that had that area. Enjoy it.

  29. Sheila,

    I just want to say thank you for telling it as it is and “Ditto to the 51st power”. 51 is the number years Helen and I have lived downtown. One other point: The downtown police district has the lowest crime rate in all of the police districts in the county.

    Bob Small

  30. I’ve attended every GenCon in Indianapolis (and for the past 40+ year). The convention brings in 60,000 attendees every year, more than everything else except for the 500, for four (or five or six, depending) days. I’ve never heard of any major problems with crime involving the attendees there in Indianapolis. (Our problems are more like finding hotel space, finding cheap parking, and finding out our favorite restaurant close or changed.)

  31. Having lived downtown for 33 years now, we have loved every minute of it. In the last 20 years the streets have come alive with people on foot. The areas are all well lit. It feels safe. The concentration of everything makes it a wonderful place to be.

    One of the things that attracted us initially was the diversity. And while our area has had some gentrification, our immediate neighborhood has a mix of large apartment buildings, condos, and closely spaced historic houses and the mix really has kept a lot of diversity in the area.

    One of the most surprising things was because neighbors were working together and with the police to make things better, we used to get crime stats from the police and it seemed like things were terrible, until I got the stats from the suburban neighborhood we used to live in and found out things were actually worse there. We were just ignorant what was going on in the suburbs because it was more spread out and nearly invisible.

    Part of the background and fabric on most cities in the US are mentally ill people that have fallen through what little safety net we have provided, but what really feels scary and unsafe to me are streets with no sidewalks with isolated houses sprinkled across wide dark lawns, with no foot traffic and nowhere to walk too.

    I read those comments from people that must be on a diet of Fox News and shake my head. Ignorance seems like a recipe for angry, hollow, and desperate lives.

  32. Betty,

    Once again you’ve shown what an intellectual spitfire you are, you dazzle with your prowess! Hypocrisy be damned LOL!

  33. Many comments about “how wonderful my area is, but those other areas..phffft”
    Anyone got a link to a crime map of Indy?

  34. Interesting – my first impression of Indy was how vibrant the downtown area was, and that was over a decade ago. I almost moving into a “condo” (half of a house) just off of Mass Ave, but the owner pulled it from the market. Living near Broad Ripple is also nice.

    Perception/prejudice overwhelms facts when it comes to cities. I think it always has.

    Interesting – in today’s NYT, Paul Krugman worte about the perception of crime in urban vs. rural areas and “blue” vs. “red” states. Conclusion – great misconceptions abound.

    No guarantee this link will work:

  35. I am in downtown Indianapolis fairly frequently. I can honestly say I have never felt unsafe walking downtown in the daytime, or at night. I’ve stayed at most of the major hotels downtown and pretty much walked everywhere rather than get my car out of the garage. When I saw the Starbucks article I immediately knew there was way more to that story. The Circle is always well-lit, and there are almost always people strolling the sidewalks. Once again, I’ve never had a hint of feeling unsafe there.

  36. I’m not long-winded, so I’ll just say that, having spoken to you about your living downtown, I know that you are sincere in your love of the experience of being where things are happening. Good for you!

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