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Police adjust downtown crowd-control plan after injuries

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Overwhelming "human gridlock" in Indianapolis' Super Bowl Village was causing police to rethink crowd control Saturday on the eve of the big game.

Eleven people were injured Friday night as an estimated 50,000 people flooded downtown streets for a free outdoor concert by the band LMFAO. Two other people were injured Friday separate from the concert-going group. Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub said none of the injuries were serious, most involving shortness of breath or scraped knees.

Officials were still tweaking their downtown plan Saturday as they prepared for more concerts and activities before kickoff, and they seemed to be pleased with the early results.

"The crowd, everything is great," Indianapolis Department of Public Safety Capt. Kevin Givens said Saturday night. "We've not having any problems with overcrowding."

The less-favorable weather conditions Saturday might have had something to do with that as mist changed to drizzling rain, with temperatures in the 30s. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic on some streets heading into downtown, but as of 10 p.m., police had not reported any injuries or arrests.

Police made a total of 22 arrests Friday night, mostly for public intoxication. One police car was damaged after concert-goers climbed on top of it to get a better view of the stage.

To make more room for people downtown, police closed down some streets completely and others just to inbound traffic. Additional officers were stationed near Super Bowl Village.

Rumors of stampedes, stage collapses and gunshots abounded on social-networking site Twitter as crowds grew Friday, and Straub said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers investigated them all and found no problems. He said reports of officers using pepper spray, Tasers or force of any kind to control the crowd were all false.

Super Bowl Host Committee spokeswoman Dianna Boyce said despite its overwhelming size, the crowd was good-natured and caused few problems.

"It looked like a lot of people having a good time," Boyce said. "When you have 200,000 people, you have to continue to keep everyone safe."

Kaitlyn Blacha of West Lafayette and her friends went downtown to see LMFAO Friday night, but Georgia Street was already so packed that they couldn't even see the stage. She said the crowd trying to get to the stage was mostly young, drunk, college-age kids. In the span of an hour, she was able to move about a block and was pushed from behind several times.

"At times, I was pinned so tightly I didn't even have to hold my body up," Blacha said. "Nobody could turn back. We were just stuck."

About an hour after arriving, she said security officers began ushering crowds down nearby alleys to alleviate some of the pressure on Georgia Street. She went down an alley and tried to return to Super Bowl Village but entrances were blocked off. She and her friends instead headed for a nearby bar.

"I never felt scared for my safety," she said. "It was Friday night and we were going downtown. We got what we deserved."

In preparation for free outdoor concerts from the bands Umphrey's McGee and O.A.R. on Saturday, Straub said between 650 and 700 officers will be on duty in the downtown area, 50 more than originally planned. Officers were prepared to close off access to the Super Bowl Village if crowds became too unruly.

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