Glen Park neighbors, cops join forces to fight crime
by Lori Caldwell firstname.lastname@example.org | 648-3258 October 7, 2012 3:16PM
William Willis, Sr. (left) and Henry Hunter are photographed in an empty lot near their homes in their neighborhood in Gary, Ind. Thursday October 4, 2012. Willis and and his neighbor Hunter recently stood up to a gang of teens harassing them after Willis turned in a gun dropped they dropped in the lot during a police chase. The pair have high praises for the Gary police who responded quickly. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:06PM
GARY — On a breezy fall afternoon last week, William Willis Sr. sat on the front steps of his Glen Park home and waved cheerily at children walking home from school.
It was a far different picture on Sept. 14, when Willis, 50, and his neighbor, Henry Hunter, 66, were surrounded by about two dozen hostile, aggressive Lew Wallace High School students who taunted and threatened them.
Thirteen teens were arrested and charged with rioting, intimidation and obstructing traffic, including three charged as adults.
But that’s not the end of the story.
These days, the street is quiet. No gang members lurking on the corner, no shots fired, no suspicious activity.
Willis and Hunter credit the Gary police for bringing peace to their street. Police say cooperation from the residents made the difference.
“That leads to our success,” Lt. Samuel Roberts said. “Without their involvement, we pretty much were powerless.”
Willis said others who want to banish crime from their block need to do more than “peek through the blinds.”
“If you have video, give it to the police. File charges, go to court,” he said.
“People are always saying the Gary police aren’t doing their jobs, but it takes time. We have to stand up together,” Willis said.
“I want to thank the police. They need recognition for what they’ve done,” Willis said.
Hunter agreed. “This is home for me. All those kids are doing is tearing up the place. Now when we call the police, they respond.”
Chief Wade Ingram said a federal grant allowed him to provide saturation patrols in Glen Park for the last week of September. Police stopped almost 300 people and made 32 arrests.
“We locked down Glen Park,” Ingram said.
‘People got to do their part’
But even with extra officers patrolling the area, reduction in crime won’t happen without help from residents, the chief said.
“We have to rely on the citizens to be our eyes and ears, we have to work together,” Ingram noted.
The confrontation between Hunter, Willis and the teens started after school that Friday afternoon. A young man being chased by police ran through a vacant lot in the 4500 block of Connecticut Street and dropped a gun across the street from Willis’ home.
Willis found the handgun along the path of the foot pursuit and turned it over to Patrolman Donald Briggs.
Then as the evening grew dark, the teens returned with a larger group, confronted Hunter and threatened him.
“I went out there and told them, ‘I’m the one who turned in the gun,’ then we stood together,” Willis said.
Both men admitted they were uneasy as the teens — many still in their school uniforms — surrounded them, shouting threats as they closed in on the men.
“They were disrespectful,” Hunter said.
Willis noted none of the young people involved live on the block.
Roberts, Briggs and other members of the Crime Suppression Unit responded quickly while the teens were still gathered in the street.
“When we first got there, they were laughing, like it was all a joke. But after I spoke to Mr. Willis and found out what happened, I told them they were all going to the police station. Then it wasn’t so funny anymore,” Briggs said.
The adults are scheduled to appear in Gary City Court Dec. 5 for trial.
“I’m going to testify,” Willis said. “People got to do their part, we have to step up. I’m not a brave guy, but I’m not going to let them intimidate me.”