Help combating violence trickling into Gary

2013-08-01T20:15:00Z 2013-08-02T12:00:05Z Help combating violence trickling into GaryChristine Kraly christine.kraly@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195 nwitimes.com

GARY | Gary's calls for help are being heard.

On the same day federal officials toured her city, Democratic Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Gov. Mike Pence has agreed to send technical assistance to Gary.

Pence, a Republican, has not agreed to send the Indiana State Police manpower Freeman-Wilson has requested, she said. But in a letter and conversation, he asked that she work with ISP Superintendent Douglas Carter to pinpoint Gary's needs.

"I'm very positive," Freeman-Wilson said. "I understand that as an administrator and someone who has to account for the state budget and tax dollars, it's hard to say, 'Here are 60 people, or even, here are 10 people,' because that represents an expenditure."

Freeman-Wilson and Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram had requested Pence send 60 state troopers to the city for 90 days.

Instead, Pence has asked Gary officials to collaborate with Carter during the next two to four weeks to assess specifics needs and make recommendations to the governor.

Freeman-Wilson called Pence's review a "cautious and gradual process."

"I am very comfortable with this approach," she said.

The mayor is soliciting other anti-violence approaches, including tapping the Department of Justice.

This is not DOJ consultant Steve Rickman's first trip to Gary. He visited the Steel City in 1993, at the height of the city's violent past.

He was back Thursday with another consultant to suss out what kind of help Gary could get from the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center.

The program's officials collect data and conduct research and interviews with city officials and community members to recommend possible crime-fighting strategies. Among its past beneficiaries is fellow Rust Belt city Youngstown, Ohio.

Rickman and fellow consultant Patty Dobbs met with residents, pastors and advocate members of the city's Anti-Violence Prevention Committee.

Gary police updated the pair on proposed programs, including those targeting student truancy and advocating a city ordinance requiring surveillance cameras outside all businesses.

Joseph Ferrandino, assistant professor of criminal justice at Indiana University Northwest's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, shared some results of the school's research into how much one homicide can cost the public.

The low estimate is $50,000, he said.

Gary homicides are up 48 percent over last year, to 33 this week.

Rickman praised the crowded room of concerned residents Thursday. Without their support and buy-in to solutions, he said, "we'll be back here five years from now."

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