East Chicago Police Department looks to IU Northwest experts to help build more efficient department

2013-02-22T13:20:00Z East Chicago Police Department looks to IU Northwest experts to help build more efficient departmentErika Rose | Office of Marketing and Communications at IU Northwest nwitimes.com

GARY | A partnership between the East Chicago Police Department and experts at Indiana University Northwest will provide the law enforcement agency with tools it needs to better allocate its resources for more proactive policing.

Through IU Northwest’s Center for Urban and Regional Excellence , which focuses on helping community partners drive positive change by co-creating solutions to their challenges, the ECPD, as well as other police and emergency agencies in the region, now have access to sophisticated computer statistical analysis methods typically only available in large metropolitan cities.

School of Public and Environmental Affairs Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Joseph Ferrandino, Ph.D., and his students will analyze crime statistics and other data collected by the ECPD over the past five years to create a baseline for further study. Ferrandino will continue to map such information as the number of traffic injuries and fatalities, common times of traffic accidents, property damage, personal injury, and other data, and will present his findings at regular meetings with the ECPD.

“The level of expertise and technology that IU Northwest brings to the table is beyond our capability,” ECPD Chief Mark Becker said.

Ultimately, Becker said, this work will enable the department to employ a more proactive policing approach. It will help the department make decisions aimed at improving public safety, reducing traffic incidents, and deploying resources more effectively.

“Once we start getting the data, we can put it into the officers’ hands and empower them,” Becker said. “We can make better decisions about where to patrol, discover more about where the issues lie, and stay a step ahead.”

This type of analysis is among the many ways the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence helps regional agencies address challenges in Northwest Indiana Communities, according to Ellen Szarleta, Ph.D., J.D., director of the Center and a faculty member in SPEA. The Center works collaboratively with organizations, with particular focus on the government and nonprofit sectors, to advance research, teaching and services.

“IU Northwest is committed to engaging with the community to address priorities and concerns that affect citizens,” Szarleta said. “The Center’s current projects address diverse areas including economic development, government efficiency, nonprofit leadership development, and transportation policy, as well as public safety.”

Becker said he was impressed by the work Ferrandino has done on behalf of the Center with the Gary Police and Fire Departments and the Portage Police Department.

For the past 14 months, Ferrandino has provided mapping and research for the Gary Police Department, which the department uses to make decisions about staffing, policies and more. As one example, the department recently pondered switching from eight-hour to 12-hour shifts. After considering Ferrandino’s analysis on calls for service and manpower allocation evidence, the administration and union representatives decided not to move forward with the change.

Ferrandino’s expertise is not limited to crime mapping, however. The Gary Fire Department has used his maps and analysis to optimize the operations of the city’s emergency responders. Ferrandino’s graduate-level statistics class is currently working on a full analysis of the fire department’s data for the past 10 years. By examining the department’s response times, as well as the concentration of and types of calls, the research is expected to help the department better allocate its resources.

Ferrandino’s crime-mapping expertise and its implications for local law enforcement have garnered national attention. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has asked him to write a two-year grant in support of Project Safe Neighborhoods, for which he will also serve in the role of research consultant. This nationwide program aims to stimulate innovative approaches to dealing with gun and gang violence and will include law enforcement agencies in Gary, East Chicago, Hammond and Grant County, which is the county of Marion, Ind. If accepted, the project would allow police departments in the area to broaden their capabilities and work together in teams to better focus their efforts in high crime areas.

Ferrandino said it is gratifying to put his academic and theoretical background to use in a practical way that directly impacts communities and their residents. He added that working with police and fire departments to map their statistics is important work that he never imagined he’d be able to do from his university post.

“It’s exciting to be involved in the actual policing of a community like East Chicago as opposed to just writing articles about it,” he said.

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