Unsupervised teenagers with nothing to do and easy access to guns are a recipe for trouble, experts said Sunday after a late-night shooting that wounded five youths in downtown Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Police Chief Paul Ciesielski said he has had more officers downtown since three shootings injured 10 young people during the Indiana Black Expo in the summer of 2010. A community task force found that teenagers were being dropped off in the area and left unattended.
But Ciesielski said there's only so much officers can do.
"Parents just need to be more responsible and not use the downtown as a baby sitter," he said after the latest shootings, which happened as crowds reveled along a downtown canal that had been dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.
"Two of the victims were 14 years old," Ciesielski said in an email. "Why were they there at 10 p.m. without parental supervision? Who are they hanging with while downtown?"
None of the victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 17, had life-threatening injuries, police said. Police searched a residence on the city's northside and questioned several people Sunday, but there were no arrests, Sgt. Linda Jackson said.
Jackson said detectives believe the shooting stemmed from a "lingering argument" between two groups of people.
The chief said police had extra officers downtown Saturday night both in and out of uniform, though he declined to say how many. He said the department routinely assigns plainclothes officers trained to deal with youth to the Circle Centre Mall, a popular downtown gathering place for teens.
Bill Glick, director of the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, said another piece of the problem was the availability of guns. Teens can get hold of guns at home or buy them on the street, he said.
"Our kids tell us it's no problem getting a gun," he said. "I ask kids if I drop you off in downtown Indianapolis, how long would it take to find someone to help you get a gun? They say probably a couple of hours."
Glick added that many teens seem to be desensitized to violence.
"They somehow seem to be inured to the fact that if you shoot a gun it's not like a video game, someone really gets hurt," he said.
Police said three teens shot Saturday were taken to nearby Riley Hospital for Children. They were a 14-year-old boy shot in the chest, a 14-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to the face and a 16-year-old girl shot in the leg.
Jackson said the boy who was shot in the chest and the girl had been upgraded from critical to serious condition. The other boy was released earlier Sunday, Jackson said.
The two other shooting victims, both 17-year-old boys, were taken to another hospital, one with a gunshot wound to the back and the other shot in the leg, according to the police statement. They had both been released by early Sunday, police said.