I have been blessed to be Hammond’s mayor. During the course of my political career, I have learned many things about being, what I consider, a good mayor. One of the biggest lessons I have learned: Controlling Hammond’s crime problem is my No. 1 responsibility.
That is why I pride myself on my excellent relationship with the men and women who are the officers of the Hammond Police Department. The police department is, by far, the largest item in Hammond’s budget (about $25 million annually) and is the most important, especially considering where Hammond is located.
Being next-door neighbors with Chicago is one of the top reasons why many Hammond residents chose to make Hammond their home. Being within such close proximity to Chicago certainly has its advantages, especially with the tax climate offered in Indiana. Hammond residents can enjoy the lower costs associated with living in Indiana and still live close enough to experience all the activities and experiences offered by one of the most amazing cities in the world.
But living within such close proximity to Chicago has its disadvantages as well. In 2016, Chicago experienced its most violent year. I feel “imported” crime flowing over our border is one of the biggest challenges Hammond faces as a city.
Yet, even with Chicago experiencing a 50 percent spike in homicides and violent crime statistics reported to the FBI, Hammond’s violent crime stats were basically unchanged from 2015 to 2016. Hammond reported eight homicides to the FBI for 2016. Two of these were of self defense.
That equates to about one homicide for every 10,000 Hammond residents. Chicago’s homicide rate is triple that of Hammond’s.
Because of technological advances, and the difficulties we face as Chicago’s direct neighbor, we have decided to invest in a new method of crime control in Hammond in 2017.
The program, in which we plan to invest close to $500,000, will create an electronic border of license plate reading cameras around Hammond’s borders, making it impossible to come into or depart Hammond without your license plate number being scanned, then logged into a database.
We will also receive two police vehicles, equipped with these LPR cameras, as part of this initial investment.
The LPR cameras in the police vehicles are designed so that if a patrol vehicle passes a stolen car, a car where the registered owner has outstanding warrants or is attached to an amber alert, the patrol officer will be instantly notified.
Many of the cars passing though Hammond have drivers with warrants attached to them. This system will make it easier for the patrol officer to identify these individuals.
Hammond also plans to deploy 33 stationary LPR cameras around all entrances and exits to or from our city. These cameras will augment the six crime-fighting cameras Hammond already has in place. These stationary LPR cameras will capture all vehicles that enter or leave our city and add them to a database to be used as an investigatory tool to identify criminals.
This will be especially helpful with robberies and burglaries committed by outside criminals. All patrol units will be signed into the system that monitors the stationary cameras. Should a vehicle enter our city that is identified as being attached to criminal activity, patrol units will be instantly notified and will be able to respond and interdict said vehicle.
We anticipate this program to be a great success in helping Hammond control the imported crime we unfortunately experience.
This technology is currently in operation in a number of towns throughout Northwest Indiana.
In Hammond, we want our residents to know about the system. We also want the bad guys to know we have this system in place.
I don’t think people who cross Hammond’s borders regularly will mind their license plate being logged into a database if they are acting in a legal manner. The only people who really should worry are those with outstanding warrants or who are looking to cause harm and then flee to another city.