Updated: September 3, 2013 7:09AM
GARY — Two members of the federal Office of Justice Diagnostic Center met Thursday with the mayor’s anti-violence prevention committee to talk about the city’s crime problems and solutions.
While the session began with sobering statistics — homicides up more than 30 percent compared to last year — it ended with a lively discussion about the need to work together and a positive consensus that their joint efforts could bring results.
Natalie Ammons, radio personality and a graduate of the police departments Citizens’ Academy, observed there are more than 300 not-for-profit groups in the city, but lack of communication creates some overlapping services but leaves other needs neglected.
“The gaping hole in this community is that everyone is wounded. Everyone,” Ammons said as many in the Public Safety Facility community room nodded their heads in agreement.
Cmdr. Kerry Rice said he’s attended meetings all over the city where similar discussions have led to similar conclusions. “But then nothing gets done,” he said.
The assessment by the diagnostic center could lead to federal money that will help the city in a variety of ways, Chief Wade Ingram said.
Steve Rickmon, of the diagnostic center, said he was in Gary in 1993 under similar circumstances — a financially strapped city with an increasing death toll. The mission, he said, is two-fold — to “stop the bleeding,” and to “create a new pathway for young people.”
The 1993 assessment brought results, Rickmon said. That year the city applied for and eventually received a huge Community Oriented Policing Services grant that was never fully implemented. In 1995, the city experienced the highest number of homicides ever with 132 violent deaths.
Both Ingram and patrol Cmdr. Jon Cooros said the officers on the street perform admirably, despite their challenges. They agreed that more officers are needed on the street and the addition of 60 Indiana State Police troopers could provide some relief.
However, Gov. Michael Pence sent a letter to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson on Thursday afternoon saying he would not be sending troopers to Gary. Instead, the state police superintendent will assemble a team of law enforcement consultants to spend two to four weeks here and make an assessment of what the city needs to combat crime.
The mayor said she understood Pence’s response, but believes after the experts study the problems, they will conclude that assistance from the troopers is necessary.