So what is law enforcement in the region facing this year? Well, drugs, gangs and increased senseless violence come to mind.
The Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded drug initiative, reports that Chicago-based gangs continue to feel at home in Lake County and are also exploring their options in Porter and LaPorte counties.
Heroin remains a problem for our youths, and for some, experimentation with gateway drugs has led to regular dealings with Chicago gang members. Unfortunately, those gang members are increasingly making the trip to the region, and that is not good. Increased drug demand equates to increased gang presence, and that means more violence, which is growing and might be coming to a town near you.
Violence takes many shapes and forms.
Take a moment to reflect upon how often news reports are now including the term “active shooter."
Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris spent some 16 minutes or so killing 13 innocent people in 1999, and now who among us does not understand what the term “Columbine” represents? Schools, including one occupied by very young children, are no longer immune. Simply going to see a movie, walking the shopping malls or a day spent in the office can result in meeting with horrific violence.
It is no longer happening “somewhere else." It has recently touched both Lake and Porter counties.
Violence is not limited to a deranged maniac holding an assault rifle or a gang member toting a .40-caliber. Take a moment and look at what technology has brought us.
Studies report that suicide is the third leading cause of death among our youths, and for every suicide there is an estimated 100 who attempted it. More than 14 percent of high school kids have thought about suicide.
And guess what, victims of a bully are two to nine times more likely to consider taking their life. An estimated 30 percent of our student population either fills the role of a bully or suffers as a victim. Literally thousands of students remain home every day for fear of being bullied.
Our police training academy in Hobart plans to line up more technology-based training in furtherance of investigations related to drug, alcohol abuse and social media sources. Certainly “active shooter” training will be emphasized as well.
Thankfully, our partners from the federal government remain committed to the fight. Federal prosecution has enhanced our efforts against gangs and their associates tied to Mexican drug operations, who continue to expand into our region.
The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Drug Enforcement Administration all pledge continued assistance to state, county and local efforts, and that is great news. As a profession, there is more than enough of a challenge for all of us, yet too much for any one of us. We must work together if we are to succeed.
A friend at the DEA recently wrote me that “communication, coordination, cooperation between local, county, state and federal law enforcement” is what is required to address the issues Northwest Indiana will face this year. I am not certain what those issues might be, but I do know that law enforcement will be better able to succeed if we remain willing to take on the challenge together.
Regardless of the threat, we must understand that none of us working alone can be as effective as all of us working together and that includes gaining the trust and cooperation of the communities we serve.