Crime up, courts backlogged in Northwest Indiana
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com October 29, 2012 5:32PM
Tracking region crime
Although the number of new criminal cases filed in Lake and Porter counties dropped in 2011, the number of violent crimes went up in several local communities, bucking a national trend.
According to the FBI’s annual crime statistics released Monday, East Chicago posted the highest per capita rate of violent crime for the two counties, with 8.54 violent crimes for every 1,000 residents. The city saw a total increase from 210 violent crimes reported in 2010 to 255 in 2011.
Gary was second with 7.92 violent crimes for every resident in 2011. The city had not previously reported its numbers to the FBI for a few years. However, its homicide count for this year, 31, is on track with last year’s 34 homicides.
Cedar Lake, Dyer, Griffith, Highland, Porter and Whiting all saw an increase of about two to five more reports from 2010. Lake Station, Lowell, Portage, St. John and Merrillville saw larger increases, ranging from eight to 17 new cases.
Nationally, violent crime actually dropped by 3.8 percent.
According to data submitted volunatarily to the FBI, East Chicago had the highest rate of reported violent crime per 1,000 residents in 2011 in Northwest Indiana. The top 10 include:
East Chicago — 8.54 crimes
Gary — 7.92 crimes
Hammond — 6.73 crimes
Merrillville — 3.16 crimes
Portage — 3 crimes
Lake Station — 2.77 crimes
Lowell — 2.57 crimes
Griffith — 2.24 crimes
Hobart — 2.23 crimes
Burns Harbor — 1.78 crimes
According to the Indiana Judicial Service Report, Lake County saw in 2011 the fewest number of murder cases filed during the past decade.
28 in 2011
54 in 2010
42 in 2009
37 in 2008
45 in 2007
40 in 2006
41 in 2005
47 in 2004
51 in 2003
47 in 2002
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:21PM
Lake County’s court case backlog grew in 2011, despite the county seeing fewer new cases filed, according to a state report released Monday.
The Indiana Judicial Service Report, which tracks data for courts across the state, showed that the total number of pending cases in Lake County increased from 95,994 at the beginning of 2011 to 101,545 by the end of the year.
The number of criminal cases also grew, going from 17,403 to 18,322.
Part of the problem is that Lake County, like most of Indiana, doesn’t have enough judges for its case load. The report says that Lake County needs about 37 judges versus the current 34.
Porter County is also short by about three judges, the report says, but did cut down on its pending cases. The county had 25,065 cases at the beginning of 2011 but had reduced it to 23,715 by the end of the year.
At the same time, both counties saw a decrease in the number of new cases filed. Lake County’s new cases dropped by about 11,000 cases from 2010, and Porter County’s new cases dropped by about 3,500.
Kathryn Dolan, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Supreme Court, said that Lake County’s need for more judges isn’t as bad as some other counties but added that when added with others across the sate, it shows how Indiana as a whole is short by about 120 judges.
Because of that, the judges “have to work as more than one person,” Dolan said.
At a press conference Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson encouraged using technology to help judges focus more on resolving cases. One part of that is the state’s Odyssey website for public access to court records. Neither Lake nor Porter counties use the website.
Dolan said the state has a list of counties that want to use the website but they need more money.
The report also showed that Lake County filed the fewest number of murder cases since 2002, when detailed information about cases was first made available. The county filed just 28 murder cases in 2011, compared to a high of 54 cases in 2010.
Although Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter could not be reached for comment, a majority of the homicide cases reported in Lake County last year were in Gary, 34 of the 56. Of those, just eight cases were charged, although the department did bring charges in another six cases from prior years, police spokeswoman Cpl. Gabrielle King said.
Police investigate every case, she said, but often witnesses don’t want to cooperate because they are afraid or want to seek their own revenge. In other cases, there are no witnesses.