Shoppers who witnessed Saturday's shooting at Westfield Southlake mall in Hobart might not realize how aggressively Northwest Indiana police are working to keep down the crime rate.
That shooting was a high-profile crime in which two groups of youths got into a fight and a handgun was discharged, injuring no one. Police reacted quickly and appropriately.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's recent crime report, municipal police departments in Lake and Porter counties reported 23,645 crimes to the FBI in 2011, three more crimes than they reported in 2010.
The FBI report includes murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, burglaries, robberies, thefts, motor vehicle thefts and arson cases within individual communities.
East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker said his department has increased police patrols and traffic enforcement. Police also have walked neighborhoods throughout the city, speaking to residents and business owners about what the police can do better.
One of the most valuable tools in fighting crime, however, isn't within police control. It's up to individuals in each community to report suspected crimes and suspicious activity, and for neighbors to watch out for each other. This is what turns a collection of people into a community instead of a mere gathering of strangers. That's true whether it's a group of residents or business owners or shoppers.
Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram said his department is focusing on community involvement and prevention programs like crime suppression units, an anonymous tip line, gun buyback programs, increased foot patrols, enforcement of curfew laws and peace marches.
Addressing crime requires more than dollars. Residents must help reclaim their communities by working with police. Reporting crimes and suspicious activities helps the law-abiding public. Remaining silent helps the criminals.