HAMMOND | Crime in Northwest Indiana’s three counties is a regional problem, not “a Hammond problem, an East Chicago problem or a Gary problem,” said David Capp, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, at Wednesday's Edison Community Watch meeting at Edison Elementary School.
Violent offenders don’t honor state or municipal lines, Capp told the Hammond residents at the monthly meeting organized by Janet Venecz, Hammond city councilwoman.
In November 2011, the U.S. attorney’s office indicted 15 Latin Kings, “a very violent and organized gang,” Capp said as an example.
“A Latin King dispute begins in Chicago and it plays out with a double homicide in Griffith. It could have played out in Munster, in Crown Point, Valparaiso or Michigan City or anywhere in between,” he said.
More recently, Capp’s office indicted eight more Imperial Gangster gang members, bringing the total to 23.
“They are responsible for 12 murders and eight attempted murders all over Northwest Indiana,” he said.
Crime doesn’t just go from north to south, Capp said. One of largest methamphetamine rings brought under federal indictment operated out of rural Porter County and rural Jasper County, he said.
“Some of that methamphetamine ended up on the streets of Hammond, East Chicago and Gary. Crime flows in all directions,” Capp said.
The challenge for law enforcement is “to step back from their jurisdictional blinders” and work together, especially in these times of financial constraints, he said.
“My jurisdiction stops at the state line, just a few blocks from here. But I can guarantee you my problems don’t stop there,” Capp told the audience.
“I have one of my young analysts going up to the Chicago Police Department. The Chicago police know a lot about our guys,” he said. “We need to look at the bigger picture.”
Capp pointed to the working relationship the U.S. attorney’s office has with the Hammond Police Department and Chief Brian Miller as an example of what should be done to pool resources and information.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter also has placed one of that office’s attorneys at the U.S. attorney’s office in the federal courthouse in Hammond as a special U.S. attorney, he said.
A member of the U.S. attorney’s office for 27 years, Capp said what motivates him to continue prosecuting those who break federal laws was a conversation he had with a man about 14 years ago at a church in west Gary.
“Crack cocaine hit Gary hard and we went into Gary doing a neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweep,” he recalled.
During a meeting at the church, the man talked with Capp about one of those sweeps.
“He said, ‘Mr. Capp, you closed down a crack house at the end of my block. You’re the first one who helped us. Now my grandchildren can play in the yard’,” the U.S. attorney said.
“My reason for getting up and going to work is making yards in Northwest Indiana safe for kids,” he said.