Targeting crime regionally is the aim of a new federal grant request by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute that will involve the Hammond, East Chicago and Gary police departments.
If the $300,000 grant is received, the funding will allow innovation in addressing crime, said Joseph Ferrandino, assistant professor of criminal justice at Indiana University Northwest's School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Ferrandino, who helped write the grant, said the funding would facilitate the examination of public safety data in the communities to target specific neighborhoods or geographic areas where the police departments can make the most impact in addressing gun and gang-related crimes.
Ferrandino said he maps the data geographically to show where certain incidents occur and areas of dense activity.
"We're looking for shootings, robberies and anything that can be very serious. We identify areas like hot spots," Ferrandino said.
He said once target areas are identified in the communities, the departments will choose how to address those issues. Data will then be collected over time to see if violence decreases.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said the grant will help the department better use its resources and provide funding for extra patrols in the targeted neighborhood.
“They are going to take our data and do GIS crime mapping,” Miller said. “We do some of that already. ... I'm sure we will come up with some interesting ideas.”
Ferrandino said he should know whether the grant was awarded by Project Safe Neighborhoods in a couple of months. Among the local jurisdictions, the Grant County prosecutor's office also is part of the grant application.
Along with the grant, Ferrandino and his students contract with the Gary Police and Fire Departments and the East Chicago, Griffith, Portage and IUN police departments to conduct public safety mapping. He said the university does the mapping at no cost to the communities.
“The first part is for them to be more effective in what they do, especially in these budget times to really focus and understand when the calls come in and how many officers should be on a shift compared to certain days of the week,” Ferrandino said.
East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker, whose department recently signed on with IUN, said the mapping will help the department more effectively direct officers to areas of high crime.
“It will turn out to be a really great assistance,” Becker said, “to provide the services we need to provide.”