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Police, Lake Ridge schools aim to tighten security

Updated: January 22, 2013 10:14AM



GARY — Lake Ridge Schools proposed adding a new identification system and increasing communication with local police.

Parents have expressed worry regarding rumors of violence as well as a drive-by shooting on 41st Avenue and Calhoun Street on Sunday, a report of shots fired Tuesday that held students at Hosford Park Elementary until 5 p.m. and a trailer-park shooting Wednesday that killed a 39-year-old man across the street from Calumet High School.

“We started talking about what we could do Sunday night,” Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley said. “It’s our children who live in these homes.”

New safety measures include regular meetings with officials from both Lake County Sheriff Department and Gary police Department, requiring all entrances through the front door of the school, and purchasing new identification scanners for entrances.

The new ID scanners, planned to be purchased in January, will be used for visitors, and will pull identification information from state databases, including checking the sex offender registry and court orders.

Changes to the discipline code tries to encourage students to stay in school, rather than being suspended. They also plan to see increased visits and patrols near school property from the two police departments.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich assured parents, administrators and the school board of Lake Ridge Schools he was committed to protecting the schools from the growing influence of gang violence. He said he would increase his department’s efforts to help protect students in the wake of recent violence, noting recent shootings and death within the community.

“There’s a gang war going on,” Buncich said to parents, “and it’s jeopardizing your children. We’re putting this as a top priority.”

Buncich and the Lake Ridge administration planned to set up regular meetings between the Lake County officers and Gary Police Department to help coordinate efforts and increase security.

He added that he has increased patrols in the area to help deter violence near the school. Principals of the schools appreciated the extra effort.

“Let’s start communicating with everybody,” Buncich said. “We’ve got to work together on this. If you don’t communicate, you don’t get anything done.”

Johnson-Shirley added that as the school goes on winter break, parents need to take care of their children and keep them safe.

“We will do all we can while they’re in our schools,” she said, “but we can’t do anything once they’re out there.”

Dave Guerrero of Calumet Township said he appreciated the information provided, especially with an increase of violence.

“It’s all about the choices they make,” Guerrero said. “I’ve always tried to stress to my kids to pay attention and be aware.”



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