Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, left, and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich

CROWN POINT — Lake and Cook county police are reaching across the state line again to fight gangs and racial profiling.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich announced Friday at a joint press conference their departments will deepen their past cooperation to arrest violent street gang members and reduce the gun traffic from Indiana to Illinois that arms them.

Dart said, “Indiana is the number two source of guns we find at our crime scenes in Chicago. It’s stupid not to be aware of the fact gangs could care less about borders. As a matter of fact, they sort of like them, because traditionally (police) jurisdictions don’t have the ability to cross borders.

“John and I have been working together for years, and it’s broken down a lot of barriers. We have a lot in common,” Dart said.

That includes violent street gangs. Dart said, “For years now, our gang units have been working together.”

Buncich said his department’s gang unit patrols areas throughout Lake County with the highest levels of gang violence. “We have identified 2,000 gang members and are going after their leadership with the help of the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he said.

He said they have removed some street gang members who had moved from Chicago to public housing in Lake County.

He said the county’s multi-agency Metro Homicide Unit pursues gang-related killings, and the sheriff’s Drug Task Force operates throughout Lake County to identify and stop drug trafficking tied to gang activity.

Buncich said his department also is putting resources into preventing children from joining gangs, at ever earlier ages under peer pressure for protection, respect and money.

Buncich, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley have developed a public service announcement about gang violence that will be distributed to students, parents and community leaders with the aim of keeping children in school and out of gangs.

He said he wants to work with local leaders of the NAACP and other minority groups to build their trust regarding law enforcement in the wake of police shootings and Black Lives Matter protests.

“I’ve had meetings with the NAACP and other minority groups throughout our county. In the weeks ahead, we will make a concerted effort,” Buncich said, adding he will ensure officers be trained how to interact with people of all races, religions and community backgrounds.

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Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.