As part of its Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded $300,000 jointly to Indiana University Northwest and the police departments of Gary, East Chicago and South Bend.
Established in 2001 in order to reduce gun violence by implementing data-driven violence reduction strategies in communities, PSN encourages partnerships between U.S. Attorneys and local law enforcement agencies.
“The goal of this project is to reduce youth gang and gun crime throughout the Northern District of Indiana,” U.S. Attorney David Capp said. “To do that, this grant will provide funding for Gary, East Chicago and South Bend Police Departments to utilize state-of-the-art methods, in collaboration with experts at IU Northwest, to analyze criminal activity and improve information sharing among law enforcement agencies.”
IU Northwest’s Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Joseph Ferrandino, PhD., who applied for the funds on behalf of the partners, said obtaining the grant was a highly competitive process. He also stated that the award is a testament to the great work the partners have been doing individually, as well as the potential for them to work collectively to reduce gang and gun violence in Northern Indiana.
Ferrandino is best known for his work in spearheading a data-sharing effort among more than a dozen law enforcement agencies in Northwest Indiana. The Northwest Indiana Public Safety Data Consortium (NWIPSDC), thanks to a software subscription funded by NIPSCO, enables the agencies to share data across their boundaries and better allocate their resources.
Ron Teachman, Chief of Police for the South Bend Police Department, said the funds will help support such initiatives as weekly intelligence-sharing meetings; the identification of group violence members and tracking of their activities and practices; home visits; and a more structured relationship with probation, parole and juvenile agencies. He said the grant funds will also help to support an expanded ballistics laboratory, in which firearms evidence is processed and analyzed.
Gary Police Chief, Larry McKinley, and East Chicago Police Chief, Mark Becker, were also instrumental in the successful procurement of this grant.
The grant will also support the use of a gunshot detection and location tool known as ShotSpotter. This tool directs officers to the precise locations of gunshots fired and helps them respond to gunfire previously unreported.
In East Chicago, the partners will be working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in conjunction with the ShotSpotter tool to collect shell casings and analyze the guns being used in crimes. This information will help law enforcement officials better understand the relationships between suspects, the guns used in crimes, and where those guns are used.
In both Gary and East Chicago, the partners will be focusing on gun-related crime and offenders. They will specifically focus on their relationships with parole and probation agencies and building a more comprehensive approach to homicide investigations.