The Knoxville Police Department said the closures create “a false sense of security for pedestrians.” Though official closures have security staff monitoring the area, these signs seem to be hauled from a nearby baseball stadium construction site for a joke.
Police spokesperson Scott Erland said the department likely won’t investigate further but is working with construction crews to secure signs and prevent future pranks. The block of Central Street affected features several bars and clubs popular with younger patrons.
Under Chief Paul Noel, Knoxville police recently reestablished a central district including downtown. Officers patrol the area, and an off-duty officer provides weekend Old City security. However, their resources do not extend to unauthorized pranks, even if meant as good-natured fun by some.
The temporary pedestrian zones may delight some visitors but endanger others unaware traffic has not officially been rerouted. Though signs appear official, the lack of staff directing traffic or assisting pedestrians reveals the ruse.
Business owners welcome initiatives supporting a thriving downtown but not at the cost of safety or accountability. If the goal is a more pedestrian-friendly Old City, proponents should follow proper procedures to ensure the best interests of all.
An Old City group hiring off-duty officers and proposing well-designed closures could be one solution, providing security and ensuring a voice for business owners. Simply put, there are better ways to build community than unauthorized pranks, no matter how well-intentioned.