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EDITORIAL: As bodies stack up, Gary schools fail to address the problem

EDITORIAL: As bodies stack up, Gary schools fail to address the problem

Abandoned schools

Gang graffiti marks the blackboards of a classroom in the former Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts in Gary in 2015. Tattered remnants of paper, school books, furniture and other supplies were strewn about the floor of the abandoned building, which was completely open and freely accessible via damaged windows.

The bodies have been stacking up in the abandoned structures and properties of shuttered Gary school buildings. Meanwhile, the school district's leadership and city seem no closer to solving the problem than they were in 2015, when a 17-year-old girl's body was found strangled inside one of the abandoned school buildings.

Shuttered is a false euphemism for describing 33 of Gary's public school buildings, which have been closed and left as havens for crime over the past several years.

In reality, a Times probe has found, most of these buildings have wide open doors or windows through which criminals can and do pass to further their illegal activity.

It goes beyond the plethora of gang graffiti, vandalism and other property crimes which are visibly prevalent to anyone who visits the structures.

These abandoned properties have become havens for the worst crimes imaginable, and the public must demand better from the school district and its state-appointment emergency manager in dealing with this colossal negligence.

The latest of so many alarms for this problem sounded Nov. 19 when the body of Adriana Saucedo, 27, was found shot to death inside the closed Horace S. Norton Elementary School on Harrison Boulevard. Police believe Saucedo, of Porter County, was killed and dumped there by teenagers in a marijuana drug deal gone wrong.

The discovery of Saucedo's body in the abandoned Gary school played out like a broken record last month.

In spring 2016, 26-year-old Billie Young, of Gary, was killed in a shooting near the former Horace Mann High School. Young was shot in the back and arm and died at the scene in the 500 block of Garfield Street. Officers found Young face down and unresponsive on the field track.

In summer 2015, Connita L. Richardson, 17, of Chicago, was found strangled to death inside the former Emerson School at 716 E. Seventh Ave.

And in April 2011, a group of schoolchildren found a Griffith woman, Jennifer Kocsis, dead behind the former Riley Elementary School at the intersection of 43rd Avenue and Ohio Street. She was murdered by a man who lived less than a half-mile from the school, court records state.

A recent Times investigation led reporter Lauren Cross and photographer John J. Watkins to visit many of the abandoned school properties.

What they found was a mirror of what a similar Times probe revealed in 2015, following the discovery of Richardson's body at Emerson.

Wide-open doorways and windows in many cases allow for free and open access of these buildings from the street.

Gang graffiti can be seen from outside many of these buildings, tagging the chalkboards and interior walls of what once were places for educating children.

For years, the Region has watched little to no progress being made by the school district in dealing with this problem.

We've seen attempts at auctioning the properties at exorbitance prices few right-minded consumers would pay.

At times, we've seen a school district more intent on holding onto those moldering havens of blight and crime than in rightly demolishing them.

Demolition is preferable to what these former schools now represent.

In the end, government property has been turned over to gangs and other criminals, and it’s shameful.

If not legally liable for the activity that occurs there from this point forth, anyone in charge of administering Gary schools certainly should be held morally accountable.

The body count is stacking up. The problem is staring the entire Region in the face.

No one can afford to be numb or dismissive.


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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Regional News Editor Sharon Ross, Assistant Deputy Editor Andrew Steele.

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