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Homicide totals show mixed trends in North Lake communities

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Some Region communities see an uptick in homicides

East Chicago police collect evidence Oct. 13 after two people were fatally shot and crashed in the 1200 block of West 149th Street. The city has recorded eight homicides so far this year, compared with nine at the same time last year. In all of 2020, East Chicago saw 12 homicides, police said.

Hammond police made the first of several grim discoveries this month across north Lake County early Oct. 7, when they found a man slumped over in a vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head and another man in a yard with multiple gunshot wounds.

The double homicide in the 700 block of Locust Street was the first of three such cases recorded in the Region this month.

A Hammond woman and her boyfriend were shot to death Oct. 13 in East Chicago's Harbor section, and a third person — who was later charged with two counts of murder in the couple's deaths — suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder. 

Hammond police responded to another double homicide Oct. 17, after a vehicle crashed into a building at Gostlin Street and State Line Avenue. In that case, a 2-year-old child in the car survived, but two adults in the car suffered fatal gunshot wounds. 

Like many communities across the country, Hammond is seeing an increased number of homicides this year.

The city was on track to log the most homicides since at least 2007, when a total of 15 people were killed during the entire year.

The city has recorded 15 homicides so far this year, compared with six at the same time last year. In all of 2020, Hammond recorded six homicides, Lt. Steve Kellogg said.

The last time Hammond saw more than 15 homicides was 2000, when a total of 22 people were killed, according to FBI data. 

Gary has seen a decrease in homicides for 2021, with a total of 39 as of Friday, police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.

At the same time last year, Gary had logged 45 homicides. The city ended 2020 with a total of 54 homicides. 

In East Chicago, the number of homicides so far this year was similar to last year.

"We're about average pace," Deputy Police Chief Jose Rivera said. "Not that it's a good thing. We would love to see the numbers lower, but unfortunately we can't control people's behavior."

East Chicago has recorded eight homicides in 2021, down from nine at the same time last year. In all of 2020, the city logged 12 homicides, Rivera said.

The department's detectives and intelligence support officers have been using all of the city's resources to solve cases, including ShotSpotter technology, a citywide camera system and license plate readers, he said.

"Their hard work is paying off, because they're solving a lot of the homicides," Rivera said.

Hammond police also rely on their "Blue Net" system as they search for clues in homicides. They've secured charges in at least three of this year's homicides and cleared a fourth case because of the death of the suspect, Lake Criminal Court and police records show.

Hamady said the Gary for Life anti-violence initiative is still working, because gang-related homicides in 2021 were down about 10% from the same time last year. 

Guns were used in 56 of the 62 homicides across in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago, according to the Lake County coroner's office, Cook County medical examiner's office and police agencies.

Hammond and East Chicago police each have logged one fatal stabbing in 2021, and Gary has recorded three homicides caused by blunt force trauma. Two of Gary's blunt force trauma slayings involved victims who were younger than 3, data showed.

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