Criminal Justice

Region STOP Team Says Joint Policing Working

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January 20, 2014 — Though we are well into the new year, local officials are looking back to 2013 to see how policing efforts have made streets safer. One police squad says officer teamwork makes all of Lake County safer.

To target active crime in Gary, area police simply stop.

The region STOP Team task force calls upon officers from thirteen communities to swarm crime-ridden city blocks.

“It is a unique way to deal with crime,” says East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker. “I think it’s a proactive way because what we’ve done is, rather than define crime by cities, we’ve taken cities and brought them together to help us define crime, and then collectively we go out and deal with it.”

Becker says numbers from the past five months of operation show the joint effort is making streets safer.

Among the accomplishments, team officers made 582 traffic stops, 163 arrests, and 22 recovered firearms.

“They are quality arrests,” Becker says. “We’re going after people that are really making it miserable for people in their community. We’ve arrested people for loitering but we’ve also arrested people for murder, attempted murder, and serious, serious violently crime in the area.”

Police say crime-mapping data from Indiana University Northwest aids in spotting crime.

Life-long Gary resident Major Patterson says he is seeing more squad cars from surrounding cities patrolling his block.

“We have Gary, Crown Point, Lake County, Lake Station, sometimes you see Cedar Lake,” he says. “I don’t understand what the big problem is.”

He says the stop team may help, but says it is key for officers to know the challenges residents are facing.

“There is nothing really here but drugs and gangs. People are just hungry out here so of course they are going to do what they need to do to survive. Some police are connected to their own neighborhood, where their family is. Overall, I give the Gary police dept a good seven. They do their job.”

Becker agrees the team is only one prescription for a community health problem of stubborn crime.

“We’ve walked residences, we’ve walked neighborhoods, businesses, we’ve met with kids, we’ve thrown footballs, we’ve played basketball,” he says. “Just trying to get a positive interaction with kids, who perhaps other interactions with police might be a negative one.”

The chief says it is hard to quantify the positive effect of policing, but that sometimes the unknown impact is greater than a hard copy count.

By: Hilary Powell

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