By Maureen C. Gilmer , Indystar.com, March 14, 2017
Downtown Indy presents mountain bikes to IMPD Homeless Unit
(Photo: Jenna Watson/IndyStar)
A team of Indianapolis police officers have new wheels for their job helping the homeless.
Downtown Indy Inc., which seeks to develop and market Downtown, presented five new specialized mountain bikes to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's Flex Team/Homeless Unit on Tuesday as part of an ongoing partnership to support the department's work.
"We were in desperate need of new bikes," said IMPD Sgt. Bob Hipple, supervisor for the Downtown Flex Team. "These are better off-road for us. We can use them to get to areas where the homeless are living."
The Flex team is a fairly new initiative of IMPD. Its primary focus is the homeless, who often live in heavily wooded areas or along the banks of the White River where the terrain is rough and hilly.
Three members of the team are trained emergency medical technicians and carry first-aid supplies with them on the bikes.
Bob Schultz, senior vice president of marketing for Downtown Indy Inc., said the partnership with IMPD benefits the entire Downtown area.
"This continues that partnership with specific efforts to address the homeless situation," he said. "The bikes provide the opportunity to get off the beaten path to help those communities."
The bikes retail for about $1,100 each, but Downtown Indy Inc. worked with Gray Goat Bicycle Co. to buy them at cost. Jim Jensen, who works for Gray Goat and volunteers to train officers in off-road biking techniques, was on hand for the presentation.
"The officers in the unit do valuable work," he said, "so we wanted to support them."
John Mann, captain of the Downtown district, said Jensen's training has been invaluable.
"Jim has taken it upon himself to train these guys on his own time. We couldn't do it without a guy like that to keep our guys safe."
According to 2016 Point-in-Time Homeless Count, there were 1,619 homeless people found in Marion County. That number was down 2.8 percent compared to the previous year, but national research suggests the number is actually three to five times the number reported. Of the total number, nearly 360 homeless reported suffering mental illness, and another 500 said they had a substance abuse problem.