EDITORIAL: Pence's openness to tackling Gary problem is refreshing

2013-08-05T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Pence's openness to tackling Gary problem is refreshing nwitimes.com
August 05, 2013 12:00 am

How often have we heard in the region that the rest of the state either has it in for Lake County or would just as soon ignore the county all together? Real or imagined, this perception is part of the famous chip we like to carry on our shoulder.

That's what makes Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's response last week to Gary's pleas for state law enforcement help so refreshing. Pence is to be commended for continuing to buck a long-held region belief.

It's true Gary isn't getting everything it asked for —at least not yet — to help curb escalating summer street violence and a homicide count that is 48 percent higher than this time last year.

With 33 dead and counting in 2013 from gun violence, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson — a leading Lake County Democrat — requested state police help from Pence.

Freeman-Wilson and Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram asked for 60 state troopers to bolster Gary crime-fighting patrols over the next 90 days. That's not what they got.

Instead, Pence has agreed to send technical support. The governor has asked Gary to work with state police Superintendent Douglas Carter to pinpoint Gary's needs.

That isn't a flat-out "no" to Gary's request. Rather, it's a responsible method of ensuring the problem is properly addressed rather than blindly throwing manpower at it. Meanwhile, local law enforcement agencies are putting their heads together, wisely pooling resources.

Freeman-Wilson called Pence's approach "cautious and gradual" last week. But she also expressed appreciation.

"I am very comfortable with this approach," she told The Times.

Meanwhile, the mayor is doing what she can to engage other groups in dealing with the problem, including a review from the U.S. Department of Justice, meetings with the public and pooling resources with other law enforcement agencies.

Meetings and reviews won't solve the spiking homicides in Gary, nor will they do much to comfort the families who already have lost loved ones. But this dialogue — and gubernatorial openness to addressing a region problem — are big steps in the right direction.

Let's hope this spirit of partnership translates into some tangible results.

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