EAST CHICAGO | East Chicago charted its fewest murders in almost 40 years last year based on totals reported to the federal government.
Though "three murders are still too many," Police Chief Mark Becker said, that number -- half the homicides from the previous year -- marks a low reported to the the Uniform Crime Report compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A review of police records, as well as those on file with Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey's office, was conducted dating back to 1975, Becker said, and it was the lowest experienced in 37 years.
Legal definitions of murder and homicide have changed over the years at the city level, Becker said, and prior to 1975 were recorded solely as "deaths" at the county level.
Thirteen murders were reported in East Chicago as recently as 2010.
As noted in the report, the 222 violent crimes in the city in 2012 was a reduction of 13 percent from 2011 totals of 255, with three murders, nine rapes, 90 robberies and 120 aggravated assaults reported in the city of just fewer than 30,000 residents.
Property crimes (1,851) were reported at 5 percent less than in 2011 (1,941) with 594 burglaries listed, 1,064 incidents of larceny, 190 vehicle thefts and three arsons reported.
Total reported crimes of 2,073 in 2012 came in at a 6 percent reduction from 2,196 reported in 2011.
Residents have been a big help, Becker said.
Becker, who previously was the Portage police chief, was sworn in as the city's top law enforcement officer one year ago.
He also served 32 years with the FBI, ultimately as senior supervisory resident agent for Northwest Indiana.
Aggressive community outreach by police in the neighborhoods has shown people that law enforcement officers are there to help, he said, and residents are more likely to call in if they see see a crime being committed or something suspicious.
Also helpful, Becker said, has been the U.S. Department of Justice, which has locked up more than 35 gang members in the last two years who accounted for much of the neighborhood crime in East Chicago.
"I think we're headed in the right direction," Becker said.