We recently learned that municipal, county and federal law enforcement agencies are putting their heads and resources together to combat spikes in violent crime in north Lake County this summer. As great a concept as this is, police will continually be hamstrung in the crime-fighting without help from one of their most important corners: the public.
This important topic came under discussion earlier this week at a Gary public safety committee meeting, just as Gary was recording its 33rd homicide of the year — a 48 percent spike over last year.
Gary Councilwoman Kim Robinson made a salient point: "Gary is not a place of stranger crime," she said. "People know."
The people who "know" have a responsibility to step forward and make reports if they are serious about addressing the problem.
It's understandable why some people are hesitant to step forward in reporting a crime they may have witnessed. Some are afraid street violence will turn in their direction if they are seen as whistle-blowers. With this concern in mind, it's important for law enforcement throughout the region to ensure residents have a safe and anonymous means of conveying such information to police.
Gary police have a crime reporting tipline — (866) 274-6347 — at which residents can leave anonymous tips. Other region police departments offer similar services. Just as residents have a responsibility to use these services, police have a responsibility to preserve public trust by honoring the anonymity of residents attempting to do the right thing.
In her article Thursday, The Times reporter Christine Kraly cited the poignant example of Gary Bishop Norman Hairston, who has presided over funerals for 16 of the 33 homicide victims to date — and is preparing to preside over a 17th funeral this coming weekend.
This is not the kind of issue for which any of us can sit on the sidelines. South county agencies with a propensity for ignoring the problems of north county are obligated to help when lives are on the line. And residents who witness or possess vital information about such crimes have a duty to share that information, not throw their gears into neutral.
Too often throughout human history, horrible things have occurred when everyday residents could have somehow intervened but were too afraid or self-interested to do so. Lives and safety are at stake.