As Little 500 kicks off Friday with the women’s race, local police forces have a plan to combat the excessive drinking that comes along with it.
In its 63rd year, Little 500, and all of the drinking that infamously accompanies it is not a new phenomenon for local police forces.
Bloomington Police Captain Joe Qualters says a larger-than-normal number of officers will work during the late night and early morning hours of the Little 500 weekend, with help from state troopers and excise police.
In addition, there will be extra jail officers from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and remote booking sites at both the Indiana University and Bloomington Police Departments.
Even though this is the busiest time of the year for the BPD, Qualters say there is been a decrease in crime and arrests over the years.
“In the early 90s we had situations where in an apartment complex north of town, high density factor of students also had large parties, lots of fights, cars that may have been set on fire, so we had almost a riot type situation up there,” he says. “So what we did was, we really made it clear that that was not going to be tolerated and we took a zero-tolerance approach to the Little 500 and all that comes with it.”
Little 500 Race Director Jordan Bailey agrees with Qualters: the race’s drinking culture peaked in the 90s and has since settled down significantly.
“I would argue that really over the last ten years, and even the last five years, our little 500 weekend really is in line with just your typical IU football game in terms of the drinking culture,” Bailey says.
A total of 264 athletes will compete Friday and Saturday, and around 20,000 fans are expected to attend the races at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Money raised by the event will fund scholarships for students on the Bloomington campus.