Overdose Death Leads to Discovery of Overcrowded Illegal Basement Apartment

CATEGORY: Hammond Police Department, News

On April 2, 2024, at approximately 4:00 PM, the Hammond Indiana Police Department responded to a distress call reporting an overdose death at a multi-unit building in the 1100 block of Indiana Street. While investigating the apparent overdose death of a resident, officers were informed by an upstairs resident that there were 13 individuals residing in the basement of the premises.
Upon further investigation, officers discovered a total of 13 occupants, including nine children ranging from 2 months to 14 years old, two adult women, and two adult men, all from Venezuela. The basement apartment was found to be in violation of several city ordinances and inadequate for housing. “Over the last 20 years as mayor, I’ve had to visit horrific scenes of tragic fires where people have died, trapped in illegal basement apartments. We have worked very hard to eliminate these illegal apartments and hold the owners responsible and will do the same here,” said Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr.

Due to the severity of the overcrowded and substandard living conditions, the Hammond Police Department’s Code Enforcement Division was notified and promptly dispatched to the scene. Upon evaluation, the city’s code enforcement team identified numerous violations, rendering the home a hazard to the residents and the surrounding community. Overloaded extension cords, inadequate exits, windows, and walls were found in the initial inspection. “This type of illegal basement apartment places people at extreme risk and danger, with owners often preying on marginalized people and those without means to find other adequate housing,” said Kelly Kearney, head of the city’s Department of Inspections.
Further inquiries revealed that the living arrangements for the individuals from Venezuela were made by Pastor Manuel Corazzri of an East Chicago, Indiana church. As a result of the inspection, the residence was deemed uninhabitable, and the occupants were issued a notice to vacate the premises within 10 days. “If the investigation determines that the Pastor believed he could send 13 undocumented people to live in an illegal basement apartment in our city, I will ensure that he be held responsible for these actions. The City of Hammond is not open to this type of illegal criminal activity and he has placed people in significant harm, including children.”
A comprehensive investigation of the property is scheduled to take place on April 12th  to assess any additional violations and ensure compliance with safety regulations.
The Hammond Police Department is actively conducting an ongoing investigation into this matter and will collaborate with relevant federal authorities to address any potential violations of immigration or other pertinent laws.