HAMMOND | Nearly 100 residents of the East Hammond neighborhood declared war on crime in their community at a rally Sunday afternoon at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.
Since June, there's been an uptick in crime in the area bordered by Calumet Avenue on the west, 165th Street on the south and May Street on the north, said Hammond Police Sgt. Frank Moore, community affairs officer, who spoke at the rally sponsored by the Hammond Ministerial Alliance.
Two of the latest crimes occurred within the last few days, he said. Tiffany Green, 18, was robbed at gunpoint at 1:30 p.m. Thursday by two teenagers riding on bicycles on Kenwood Avenue. Saturday night, a shooting in the neighborhood left a young man possibly paralyzed, Moore said. Police suspect the two male teens on bikes may be responsible for four recent robberies.
Most of the crimes - including murder, shootings, stabbing and armed robberies - are being committed by young black males in their teens and early 20s, said the Rev. Herman Polk, pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Merrill Street and president of the ministerial alliance.
"We are here to create an awareness of crime, to solicit involvement of the community to help bring peace to our community," Polk said.
Fear of gangs and crime often keep people from getting involved, he said. The economic downturn also has contributed to the increase in crime in East Hammond, he said.
"If people don't have it, they'll take it," Polk said. "We're going to use all legal ways we can to wipe out all crime in our neighborhoods. We should not be afraid to use our porches or patios or to send our children to school."
Polk told the rally's crowd "there are three P's that will help to bring about peace" - parents, people in the community and the police.
"We need cooperation from the parents, who have to be in charge of their children," he said. "We need to open our eyes, open our mouths and, in some cases, swallow our pride. If you can't control your child, you need to get help."
"People, you cannot close your curtains, turn off your lights and hang up your phone," Polk said. "If you see something suspicious or criminal, call the police."
The police are an important part of the equation, but he added, "We cannot expect them to do their job all by themselves."
The Hammond City Council allocated $75,000 in casino money for the Police Department's Henry Unit, said 3rd District Councilman Anthony Higgs, who also spoke at the rally.
The special unit puts an extra eight patrol units on the road in addition to one unit in the downtown business district. These extra units address community problems. Resident Felicia Hill attended the rally with her children and carried a sign calling for an end to violence.
"I take this very personally. Tiffany Green who was held up on Thursday is like my daughter," said Hill, who is also a school bus driver in Hammond.
"These are our kids and this is our community. Young people today have no fear." she said. "We as adults, we need to take charge, take a stand. We have to be firm."
Crime Watch meetings
The Pullman Community Crime Watch will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ophelia Steen Community Center, 5927 Wallace Road, in Hammond. The Rev. Herman Polk, of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, will speak.
Other Hammond community crime watch groups are also active in the city. For information about the Edison (School area) Community Watch, contact Janet Venecz at (219) 937-9774. For details about The Hammond Neighborhood Crime Watch, log on to hammondcrimewatch.com.