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Gary homicide rate among highest in nation

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Monday, October 28, 2013 - 8:35 am

GARY — Gary is on pace to record about 50 homicides in 2013, which would ranks it among the most dangerous cities in the nation, leaving the mayor and police chief concerned and looking for solutions.

The gritty lakefront steel town had recorded 42 homicides by Oct. 10, making the homicide rate 53 per capita, or 53 per 100,000 residents, The (Munster) Times reported Sunday. Hammond, which has a nearly identical population of just more than 79,000 residents, had a rate of eight per capita.

FBI statistics show Flint, Mich., had the highest homicide rate for a city of more than 100,000 residents last year, with a rate of 65 per capita. Detroit had 55 per capita and New Orleans 54.

"I certainly look at the numbers and have a concern that even if we're not the highest, these numbers are high enough for people to say, 'It's dangerous there,'" Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.

Gary is on pace to log 49 homicides in 2013, a total that would give it a per capita homicide rate of 62, or one for every 1,600 residents.

Police Chief Wade Ingram estimated the city could record 55 homicides by Dec. 31.

"The bottom line is almost all of them stem from some sort of argument," Ingram said. "I don't really see it as a big drug and gang issue. It's more societal."

Ingram said he believes education might dent the homicide rate eventually.

"Maybe in these schools they should mandate they have some class or role-playing in conflict resolution," Ingram said. "The majority of it is interpersonal conflict between individuals who don't know how to resolve it other than with guns.

"I'm not against guns, but I do favor gun control. They need to be kept out of the hands of the wrong people," he said.

When homicides reached alarming levels last summer, Freeman-Wilson asked Gov. Mike Pence to send Indiana State Police troopers to assist in patrolling the streets. Pence instead called for an audit of the Gary Police Department, which resulted in a report with several recommendations.

"The Pence report is great for management and efficiency of the department," Ingram said.

Ingram said he has already made significant changes in divisions within the department based on the report's recommendations. It recommended the department have 60 percent of its force dedicated to patrols rather than 40 percent. Ingram said he has 55 percent of officers on patrol now and plans to move more officers to reach the 60 percent level.

"More police on the street does make a difference," Ingram said.