EAST CHICAGO —Warm weather can bring with it more instances of crime, and the East Chicago Police Department prepared for that this year by forming a new street crime unit.
It's made up of 14 officers from the patrol division, assisted by the department's two trained police dogs.
The unit roams the city so it can saturate areas of high crime and trouble and is recognizable because of the uniforms consisting of green pants and black shirts that differ from normal police attire.
"They're not assigned to a specific beat like a patrol officer would be," East Chicago Police Chief Hector Rosario said.
Rosario said the unit was started to take some of the burden off the patrol division and prevent officer burnout.
"Once the summer months come, patrols are usually jumping from call to call to call," Rosario said.
Patrol Cmdr. Justin Orange is the direct supervisor of the unit, which is financed by overtime pay.
"I believe we hit the streets for the first time sometime early May," Orange said.
Orange said he chose unit members along with Rosario and Deputy Chief Jose Rivera.
"We kind of based picking the guys off of their work ethic and their performance in the patrol division," Orange said.
He said most of the members are officers who write the most tickets on their shifts.
"They make the most contacts," Orange said. "They respond to the majority of the calls for their shift."
If numbers are an indication, the unit appears to be making an impact.
Orange recently said it has taken 15 firearms and a large amount of marijuana and other drugs off the street.
"We've made over 100 arrests," Orange said.
Rosario said he is pleased with the unit's performance and that it will continue to operate in the city.
Orange said increased productivity has been noticed even among officers not part of the street crime unit as some have ambition to join it.
"The guys were excited to be appointed and I think that kind of boosted their work ethic and now we have a boost in some of the guys who are not on the unit," Orange said.
Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail