Stock - Merrillville Town Hall

Merrillville Town Hall.

MERRILLVILLE — The Merrillville Police Department has reached its largest staffing level since its founding in 1971.

The department has 60 officers for the first time following the hiring of Patrolman Terrence Bronowski, of Merrillville.

“We've come a long way since I've been here,” Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey, a former Merrillville officer, said after swearing in Bronowski.

Guernsey retired from the Merrillville Police Department in 2001. He said the force had around 30 officers at that time.

Town Council President Richard Hardaway agreed the department has made strides over the years.

“Keep up the good work,” Hardaway said to Police Chief Joseph Petruch.

Merrillville was one of six Northwest Indiana communities in “Indiana's 20 Safest Cities of 2018” ranking on safewise.com.

The professional review website focusing on safety used 2016 Federal Bureau of Investigations crime statistics and population data to create the ranking.

Bronowski joins three other officers who were recently hired by Merrillville to bring the force to 60. Petruch anticipates the department will remain at that number because there is no additional hiring planned and no upcoming retirements.

Petruch said many of his officers have less than five years with the town.

The growth of the force has allowed the department to dedicate officers to a drug task force and warrant services unit, which both recently became full-time, Petruch said.

Those are among efforts the department has made to become more proactive with crime prevention.

As the town reached 60 officers, Petruch offered some safety advice to residents.

He said there have been some recent thefts from vehicles, and many of the incidents occurred in unlocked vehicles.

Petruch said Merrillville has made arrests in the cases, and he advised residents to ensure their vehicles and homes are locked.