Plan to stem gun violence in Gary: Visit families of victims, interrupt cycle of retaliation
Post-Tribune staff report July 10, 2013 4:28PM
Updated: August 11, 2013 6:41AM
GARY — A recent surge in homicides — three in three days during the weekend — prompted Chief Wade Ingram to institute new practices he hopes will reduce violent crime.
Many gunshot and homicide victims are young, black men who have been involved or exposed to criminal activity. Shooting victims often don’t cooperate with police. “They want to exact justice themselves,” Ingram said Tuesday afternoon.
Beginning immediately, members of the Crime Suppression Unit will visit shooting victims to check on their status and to discourage retaliation.
“We’re going to find out what they’re doing, who they’re hanging around with, encourage them to cooperate with investigators,” he said. The visits won’t be a one-time experience. “We plan to make periodic contact with the victims to hopefully interrupt and delay future violence.”
Two of the weekend’s victims don’t fit the typical profile, Ingram observed. “They are older guys, not involved in anything,” he said.
The city has recorded 25 homicides so far this year, up 51 percent over last year.
The Community Oriented Policing Services officers will have a new assignment as well. Ingram said they will make follow-up visits to areas where the ShotSpotter system detected gunfire. “I want them to go out and knock on doors, find out what’s going on there,” he said. When the gunfire system was installed, the department used preprinted notices that officers placed on doors where the shots had originated, letting residents know that police were aware of the activity and would be watching. That practice, however, ended several years ago.
The department is working with Gary Housing Authority and landlords to conduct compliance checks at apartment complexes around the city. Also, Ingram said, his staff is communicating with the Department of Correction parole division about where parolees are living and working.
“Every little bit helps,” Ingram said.
Acknowledging that he has been criticized by members of the department, Ingram said he will continue to visit the families of homicide victims, even those victims who were deep into crime and suspects in multiple killings.
Local ministers accompany the chief on these visits, where he tries to discourage retaliation and sometimes makes small donations to the family to help with funeral expenses.
“These young men do not have insurance. There’s a grieving mother or grandmother there. The ministers talk to them about God and justice and I try to talk to them too,” he said. “Now that this has happened, where do we go from here?” Ingram said. “Maybe this will do a little good.”