EDITORIAL: Many solutions to Gary's crime problem

2013-10-27T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Many solutions to Gary's crime problem nwitimes.com
October 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson requested urgent assistance from the Indiana State Police, it was obvious the city's homicide problem was bad. As Lauri Harvey Keagle's stories today show, the problem is alarming.

As of Oct. 10, Gary recorded 42 homicides — one for every 1,900 residents — and the year isn't over yet. 

Flint, Mich., led the nation last year with the highest homicide rate -- 65 per 100,000 residents -- for a city over 100,000 residents.

Gary, which has just 20,000 fewer residents and similar demographics, is on track this year for a homicide rate of 62.

Fighting the crime problem in Gary requires renewed attacks on many fronts.

Gov. Mike Pence spurned the mayor's request for state trooper assistance but advised 60 percent of the city's police officers should be on patrol duty. Police Chief Wade Ingram said it's already up to 55 percent, a major improvement, and he plans to get it to 60 percent soon.

But Dan McDevitt, former Lansing police chief and now principal at REM Management Services, knows additional police officers on the street aren't enough.

"If you put another 100 cops out there, without a sense of community, it doesn't matter," McDevitt said.

In a community where violent crimes are common, Ingram said victims too often choose not to cooperate with police and instead take matters into their own hands, only perpetuating the problem.

Ingram and other Gary leaders must work with citizens throughout the city to build a sense of community. That includes starting neighborhood Crime Watch and other programs that encourage residents to report tips to police as well as give citizens feedback on what police see happening in their area.

Ingram also proposes requiring gas stations and convenience stores to close after 9 p.m. if they don't have surveillance cameras inside and outside.

Crime has spiked in and around 24-hour convenience stores and gas stations. It's in the best interest of the employees as well as customers that surveillance cameras be installed.

Crack down on gangs and drugs, too. Revenue from sales of illegal drugs fuels gangs' greed and puts customers and bystanders in peril, not just the drug dealers themselves.

And small gangs control less turf, so they are more likely to clash with each other along their territorial borders.

Not all violent attacks involve gangs and drugs. In every case, though, it's a matter of conflict escalating out of control.

Teach children, beginning at a young age, nonviolent techniques for conflict resolution. Open their eyes to other possibilities.

Gary is a city with vast possibilities, after all. Reducing the crime rate is a key to unlocking them.

That's why all of these approaches are necessary to help Gary reduce its violent crime rate.

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