road rage fatality, Hammond

Hammond police Lt. Steven Kellogg speaks to media Friday about the death of Jorge Roman, who was shot and killed Thursday during a "road rage" incident on 165th Street in Hammond. The death ended the city's homicide-free streak.

Sustained success or improvement almost always results from deliberate action, strategic planning and dogged execution.

Such is the case with the city of Hammond's almost nonexistent volume of homicides and decreasing numbers of most other categories of violent crime within recent years.

It all comes as a result of a city administration determined to use cutting edge technology and old-fashioned police work to keep a problem that plagues much of Northwest Indiana's urban core at bay in Lake County's largest city.

Other Region municipalities grappling with high numbers and rates of slayings — particularly Gary — should be taking note and learning from Hammond's success.

As of July 4, Hammond had been homicide free since the beginning of the calendar year.

On Independence Day, that streak ended, but not before the city shattered the homicide-free record streak set 38 years ago when the city had no homicides between Jan. 1 and June 8 of 1981.

The recent record streak came to an end with the alleged road-rage shooting death of 18-year-old Jorge Roman, a young father from East Chicago.

While no amount of homicides is acceptable, Hammond has accomplished something noteworthy.

Nearby Gary, which is slightly smaller in population, has seen 28 homicides so far this year, up from 25 at the same time last year. Gary recorded 40 homicides for all of 2018.

And Hammond is bordered to the north by the South Side of Chicago, another magnet for crime.

Meanwhile, Hammond has seen one homicide in 2019. It experienced five homicides in all of 2018, which represented a 61.5% drop over 10 years.

How is Hammond, a larger urban core city, doing it?

Police Chief John Doughty told us Tuesday of several measures the city has taken in recent years to produce a safer community.

In 2016, Hammond began using a system called Blue Net — a series of cameras throughout the city that read license plates of passing cars and help nab or deter criminals, sometimes before the crimes occur.

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The program has since grown to more than 60 license-plate-reading cameras throughout the city. Those cameras have been credited with helping lead to arrests in a number of high-profile crimes, including the most recent homicide case.

Hammond has made no secret the cameras are there, although would-be crooks don't know where they're located.

The program and its successes have been well publicized, no doubt creating a deterrence to crime.

Technology seems to be playing an important role.

But old-fashioned police work and community outreach can't be overlooked either.

The city's Academy Bound program, patterned after Hammond’s residential College Bound tuition program, seeks out a diverse mix of city residents, who are 21 years of age or older.

Funded through municipal gaming dollars, it pays for parties interested in a law enforcement career to attend the state police academy. It also pays for uniforms and entry-level equipment for the city police officers-in-training.

In exchange, the academy attendees agree to stay and work in Hammond for three years after graduating.

If they fail to pass the academy, participants must reimburse expenses to the city, protecting Hammond's investment.

City officials note the end result is a police force built with cops who already live in and know the city.

Increased police presence in the neighborhoods, sometimes even knocking on doors or approaching people for conversations on the street, also is having an impact, Doughty said.

Not all Region police departments are getting it right. Hammond is finding success in key areas.

It's time for other communities to learn from the example.



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