Gary, Ind., police tour Youngstown to exchange crime-fighting ideas

By Peter H. Milliken

Youngstown police officials plan to visit and learn from Gary, Ind.

YOUNGSTOWN — Learning about Youngstown’s crime-fighting and revitalization efforts was the goal of seven representatives of the Gary, Ind., police department, who made a one-day visit here.

Their Tuesday visit began with a PowerPoint presentation in the police roll-call room by Youngstown Police Sgts. Mike Lambert and Kevin Mercer concerning Youngstown’s history and population and crime characteristics.

“We are both trying to see how we can better reduce crime and make a better city,” police Chief Jimmy Hughes said of Youngstown and Gary officials.

After that presentation, the visitors toured the city police station and municipal court and various neighborhoods in all seven wards of the city.

Hughes said he and two other Youngstown police representatives plan to visit Gary to view that city’s Shot Spotter gunshot-detection technology, which Youngstown plans to acquire.

Shot Spotter is an electronic system that uses satellite mapping to identity to within 10 feet the origin point of gunfire. “They set up sensors in a zone and, by triangulating the sound, they can pinpoint it,” Hughes said, adding that the system can identify the shooter’s direction of travel during the gunfire.

Gary and Youngstown are similar in population and similarly plagued with abandoned buildings and a high crime rate, including a high homicide rate, and both experienced major steel-mill closings, Hughes said.

Gabrielle King, public information officer for the Gary police department, said Gary Police Chief Reginald Harris wanted his command staff to visit Youngstown after he saw a CNN documentary concerning Youngstown.

“He wanted us to come and take a look at things and see if there were some things that we could glean from you all and take back home and maybe implement,” King said.

Besides King, the visitors from Gary included its deputy police chief, Gary Carter, his assistant, two commanders, a grant- application writer and an internal-affairs sergeant.

“When we walked into the building, we saw how this building reminds us of our old building,” King said of the part of Youngstown City Hall that houses the police department and municipal court.

“We rehabbed a hospital that had been vacant for a number of years” into a new police and municipal court facility in Gary, King said.

Because of crowding and security concerns, Youngstown municipal court judges have sued the city administration in support of their demand for new court facilities, and the Ohio Supreme Court is trying to mediate a solution.

“We didn’t come here necessarily looking for glory and beauty. We came here to see reality,” King said.

She added, however, “You have to look at the positive side. Look at the fact that your crime is down here.”

“Chief Hughes is going to share what he has with us and then, when he comes to Gary, we’ll share what we have with him. It’s a partnership,” she said.

Hughes said he would share with the Gary police officials some of Youngstown’s successful crime-fighting initiatives, including saturation patrols, anti-gang initiatives in school zones, the Weed-and-Seed program and the eight-city Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium.

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