East Chicago is a city long plagued by crime, political corruption and betrayal of public trust by some past mayors and other city officials. So when decisions are made by a contemporary administration that improve conditions and residents' lives in the city, it's worth heralding.
East Chicago's crime rate has improved after Mayor Anthony Copeland and Police Chief Mark Becker invited federal authorities into the city, prompting major crackdowns on gangs, guns and drugs. The wisdom of that decision is apparent in the sharply reduced number of murders and the reduction in other crimes.
Violent crimes fell from 255 in 2011 to 222 in 2012, a reduction of 13 percent, city statistics show. Property-related crimes — such as theft — also are down by about 5 percent between the two years. Some of this improvement, no doubt, can be attributed to sweeping Hammond federal court indictments last year of alleged members of the East Chicago-based Imperial Gangsters street gang.
But the genesis of the improvements — though attributable to the joint efforts of the city and federal authorities — can be traced to the February 2012 appointment of Becker. He is a former federal agent with a strong track record of taking the fight to region gangs and drug dealers through his past post as head of a regional gang task force.
Becker's ties to the federal law enforcement community — and his own knowledge of the complex problems of street gangs and drugs — no doubt hastened the federal enforcement that is helping curb gang violence in the city. Becker's appointment was a sound move by Copeland that continues to pay dividends on the streets of East Chicago.
Other cities with major crime issues should follow the lead of Copeland and Becker. Breaking up gangs battling each other will reduce the amount of violent crime and make the streets safer. East Chicago seems to have found a formula that is working. Other municipalities in the region's urban core should follow suit.