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Newest weapon in arsenal of crime fighters: Statistics

Joe Ferrandino talks about how mapping datcan be useful departments during his Crime Public Policy class Monday afternocampus IndianUniversity Northwest

Joe Ferrandino talks about how mapping data can be useful to departments during the his Crime and Public Policy class Monday afternoon on the campus of Indiana University Northwest in Gary. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 8, 2013 6:15AM



Veteran police officers in every city know the trouble spots, where crashes will likely occur in bad weather, which bar has the most fights.

But with the help of computer analysis, even the greenest rookie can have that same information, nicely packaged with a colorful map and events categorized by any number of variables.

Aided by an assistant professor at Indiana University Northwest, three Northwest Indiana police departments and one fire department are using information from their calls for service to become more efficient and effective in service to their communities.

“Ninety-some percent of cities across the country are data rich but information poor,” assistant professor Joseph Ferrandino said last week.

Gary, East Chicago and Portage police departments and the Gary Fire Department are in varying stages of analytic work with Ferrandino.

He and his students in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs are available to help other area departments examine their work to learn where they are having success or failure in delivering services.

“They could either have a problem and want it looked at, or want to know what the problem is. It’s up to them,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be crime.”

All emergency service data from Lake County is already mapped, Ferrandino said.

“A municipality may have an interest in adding a fire station or an ambulance. We can help,” he explained.

In Gary, Ferrandino and interns have been processing fire and crime data for a year.

“I consider this my post-doctoral education,” he said.

In Gary, the most ambulance calls for cardiac emergencies originate at the Buffington Harbor casinos, while the highest concentration of asthma occurs near the Marshalltown subdivision, where there is also the most single mothers living in the city, he said.

Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram said Ferrandino has identified two “hot spots” in the city where crime consistently happens more often than other areas. “One is Glen Park and the other is in Midtown,” he said. Two other “problem areas” are also sites where police focus more patrol units and work by the Crime Suppression Unit.

Portage is in early stages of the analysis, Chief Troy Williams said.

“I’d like to give him all our burglaries and have him map them,” the chief said. Having a clear idea of where the crime occurs most often will help patrol officers focus their efforts, he said.

Car thefts are another issue that Williams wants Ferrandino to examine.

In East Chicago, Chief Mark Becker expects the arrangement with IUN to aid police by moving patrol units closer to potential criminal activity.

“One of the best maps shows all the traffic stops in one color and all the crime in another,” Becker said. That information will help officers see where the most problems occur.

He intends to give that information to his patrol supervisors “to empower them. Let them make the decision on how to use their troops,” he said.

A small cooperative grant, assistance from IUN interns and the latest crime statistics “allow us to become a 21st-century police department,” Becker said.

“I think we will have success this year,” he added.



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