GARY | Near the spot where a 26-year-old died Thursday night in a hail of gunfire, several hundred residents, church representatives, public officials and law enforcement officers stood shoulder to shoulder Saturday to say “Enough is enough.”
The antiviolence rally of the same name was rapidly organized Friday after Police Chief Wade Ingram informed Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson about Sam Lott’s homicide, the third in the Steel City in the past five days. There have been more than 20 homicides in Gary since the beginning of the year.
“I was on my way to Indianapolis, and Chief Ingram called and said, ‘I think we have another homicide’,” Freeman-Wilson said. “I told him, ‘Enough is enough.'”
The rally began with the Gary Police Department’s outdoor roll call. Cmdr. John Cooros called the names of police officers on duty Saturday afternoon.
Ingram said he started the practice at the scene of every homicide when he arrived in Gary as police chief.
At the start of their three shifts, all police officers on duty that day gather in the neighborhood where the crime took place to “demonstrate to the community we are there,” Ingram said. “Thursday night when Sam Lott was killed, all three shifts came out for the outdoor roll call.”
Freeman-Wilson stressed cooperation between the community and the police.
“You know that one homicide is too many,” the mayor said. “If we depend only on those in law enforcement, we have lost the battle before we even start. It takes the whole community.”
That message echoed throughout the rally and the neighborhood at West Second Place and Arthur Street as speakers from the U.S. attorney’s office, Gary Police Department and City Council asked for the community’s support.
Speakers also put the violent offenders on notice.
“The majority of people in Gary are law-abiding,” Freeman-Wilson said. “But we have allowed a lawless minority to rule. We give notice right now that the majority is going to rule this entire city.”
Kyle Allen, president of the Gary City Council, called for all law-abiding citizens to “invest in our city. We must create an adequate and superior quality of life here, and (those who break the law) should suffer the consequences."
David Capp, U.S. attorney for the Northern Indiana District, reiterated that point.
“To the good citizens, we in the federal system will continue to work together with state and local law enforcement and do anything we need to do,” he said. “To the bad guys — we’re coming after you.”
Capp also said crime in Northwest Indiana “is not a Gary problem, or a Hammond problem or an East Chicago problem. It’s a regional problem and takes a regional approach.”
That means a partnership between federal, state and local authorities and between law enforcement, government, churches, schools and other organizations.
Freeman-Wilson said the partnership needs to focus on getting involved in neighborhood watch and block clubs and report when something seems wrong; know your neighbors; and “use every resource” to create programs and places to keep young people off the streets and “make sure parents know about them.”
Those programs could include day camps, the Boys & Girls Club, police-sponsored programs and vacation Bible school, she said.
Another “must” in the city is to revitalize parks, Freeman-Wilson said.
“It’s not a coincidence that we are gathered at the site of a park that is in disrepair,” she said. “I invite you to drive by this park next week. Crews will be working to get this park ready.”
Community organizations, many faith-based, showed their support at the rally for that plan.
Police brass from other communities, including Portage Police Chief Troy Williams, also stood with the mayor and other officials.
In one poignant moment at the rally’s end, 5-year-old Todd Kevin Godfrey II gave Williams a big hug as the chief bent down to the child’s level.