SCHERERVILLE | Until the local criminal justice system is reformed, economic development cannot succeed, a local educator told business, government and public safety leaders Friday.
Joseph Ferrandino, assistant professor of criminal justice in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, focused on the integration of public safety data and GIS mapping with business and economic development in his talk. He spoke at the Lake County Advancement Committee monthly meeting.
"Public safety is economic development," he said.
When people feel safe, they feel secure leaving their home unattended to shop and conduct business in the community.
Ferrandino is part of an effort at the university to gather data from local police departments and plot it on maps.
Gary, East Chicago, Munster, Schererville, Griffith and Merrillville participate, and Ferrandino hopes to eventually have every department in the county on board.
As part of his presentation Friday, Ferrandino displayed a map showing Lake County's low number of prison admissions, compared to other parts of the state.
"This is a viable place to be a criminal," he said.
Downstate Marion County is nearly double the size of Lake County, yet had eight times as many prison admissions, his map showed.
Knowing where crime hot spots are helps police develop strategies, he said.
"I use that when I make my patrol decisions," Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram said.
Ingram said the department is using the data to follow up with gunshot victims and intervene before they try to retaliate.
Because Ferrandino and his graduate students pull current information, Ingram has fresh data to see where crime hot spots are and when they migrate because of increased police presence.
Communication and collaboration among police is improving locally, Ferrandino said.
"We're sharing information in ways that have never been done here before," he said.
Ferrandino wants to expand the mapping to include fire calls, health statistics, business licenses and more, so every parcel in the county has information associated with it.
"We want everything in one place, on a map," he said.
Business owners can find out what type of crime is going on in their neighborhood, and prospective business owners can use the information to help them plan, he said.