Editorial Page Editor/South Lake County Editor

Marc is a veteran investigative reporter and editor of more than 15 years, including 10 years at The Times, where he is the investigative editor. He is also the founder of the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project.

Most of us can find fault in our neighborhoods.

We lament unruly kids running through our yards, curse about the neighbors whose dogs mess in our grass or scorn the residents whose trash blows onto our property.

As aggravating as such unneighborly variables can be, they're a far cry from worrying about being mugged outside our homes, bullied by transient gang members and hearing gunshots with the frequency of Indiana fireworks.

By the accounts of residents and Griffith police, that's just what the score was at the once infamous Mansards apartments in the town.

That is, until a concerted effort among Mansards residents, management and police began a few years ago.

Those three stakeholders are providing a model for curbing crime and developing shared understanding that should spread like a wildfire through our Region, state and nation.

We've all seen the headlines of the actual fires spreading from violent riots and demonstrations, most recently in Milwaukee, when people and authorities fail to remember their shared humanity.

Stakeholders in the livability of the massive Mansards complex, which house's nearly one out of five Griffith residents, have incorporated an approach of eye-to-eye collaboration rather than torch-to-car.

Three years ago, I implored the town, the complex and the police to make the reality of living in the Mansards match the facade of what were once considered luxury apartments.

The problem at that time — and for many years prior — was the high rate of crime, transient residents and police calls for service occurring there.

What a difference three years makes.

Griffith police Chief Greg Mance reported last week that crime has fallen about 30 percent roughly within that time period.

And within the past six months, it's down about 48 percent, which means the falling crime rate of the Mansards finally mirrors the declines throughout the entire town.

This didn't happen by accident.

About three years ago, Griffith police began dedicated patrols of the 900-plus-unit complex.

Police began working with Mansards managers, encouraging regular audits of lease agreements to ensure those actually living in the units are the ones listed on the lease.

More importantly, a group of concerned residents from both within and outside the Mansards community formed a community club and steering committee focused on communication and understanding.

The group meets regularly with Chief Mance and dedicated Mansards beat officer, Tony Hemphill, to discuss concerns and to plan events befitting one of Griffith's largest neighborhoods. Hemphill attends all the community events, including Halloween and Christmas parties, not just as a cop but member of the greater Mansards community.

At a recent meeting of the steering committee, the real Mansards progress was revealed, not in what residents were telling Mance and Hemphill, but in what they weren't talking about.

"There's five pools in the Mansards and no life guard," resident and community club member Luther Philips said.

Other residents and steering committee members complained about unregistered dogs in the complex — and people not picking up the unsightly messes left by the animals.

Within the past year, Mance has noted these quality-of-life complaints have largely replaced residents raising the alarm about gang and drug activity within the complex.

Even with all of this work, things aren't perfect at the Mansards. But at least the residents, managers and police are looking each other in the eye, shaking hands and working together to make things better.

The reality is beginning to match the facade because people are willing to be real with one another.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.