Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $135,036)
Statement of the problem
Violent crime, often associated with gun and gang violence, is a pressing issue throughout the Northern District of Indiana. The Northern District of Indiana is divided into four core areas: Fort Wayne, our largest city; South Bend; Lafayette; and Northwest Indiana, which includes Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago along with other municipalities.
The cities of Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago have a combined population of approximately 180,000. They all lie within Lake County in the northwestern corner of the district less than 20 miles from Chicago with Hammond and East Chicago residing on the IL border. Lake County has a total population of 485,000 and is plagued by high levels of violent crime associated with gun and gang violence but has limited resources. In addition to high poverty rates, Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago, along with other towns in Lake County, are experiencing higher than what was once considered normal crime rates due in part to the influx of individuals from Illinois. This influx, in addition to limited resources in these areas, has impacted the respective police departments’ ability to combat violent crime. The Lake County High Crime Unit (HCU), previously known as the Gang Unit, is responsible for patrolling violent crime areas with gang-related activities including narcotics distribution. HCU, spearheaded by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, is a collaboration between various local, state, and federal agencies. HCU’s partnership with the Gary Police Department is significant, as Gary regularly has the highest crime and gang activity rates in Lake County.
Tippecanoe County, which has a population of approximately 195,000, is in the southwest portion of the Northern District of Indiana. Tippecanoe County’s largest city is Lafayette, and with Purdue University located in neighboring West Lafayette, the population of the area increases by 40-50 thousand when Purdue is in session. Over the last ten years, Lafayette’s population has increased exponentially. During this time, the Lafayette Police Department (LPD) experienced an increase in the number of calls for service and reports generated, which resulted in an increase in the number of arrests. Balancing the need to respond to increased general calls for service with the need to practice proactive community enforcement poses an ongoing challenge to the city. Because of the increased call/ arrest volume, LPD has experienced a strain on resources, including less time that patrol officers can spend in high crime areas where they typically actively investigate gun violence and drug crimes. In response to these challenges, LPD created a specialized unit, the Street Crimes Unit (SCU), to address violent crimes and gang activity throughout the community.
In 2020, LPD created an additional unit to assist in this effort, the Criminal Interdiction Unit. Both of these units collaborate with the Tippecanoe County Drug Task Force, a metro narcotics unit supported by the Tippecanoe County Prosecutor’s Office and the four largest law enforcement agencies in the county. Since 2006, LPD has identified hundreds of gang members belonging to many unique sets of gangs, some with national and international ties. The LPD has implemented a real-time crime and intelligence center called the Analysis and Response Center (ARC), which is responsible for compiling and filtering crime information and intelligence obtained daily through all department efforts. ARC prioritizes the most pressing crime issues facing the city, whether it be drug dealing locations, gun crimes, gang criminality, or any other issue.
South Bend, located in St. Joseph County in the north central area of the Northern District of Indiana, has a population of approximately 102,000, and the total population in the area is 272,000. South Bend is eager to implement new programs and strategies for the betterment of its citizens. It continues to increase in violence with similar challenges as other communities. South Bend is a central point for individuals traveling from major cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, and Detroit. It has a rail system that allows for ease of travel to and from Chicago, which also brings increased connections to Chicago, including crime. The South Bend Police Department hosts weekly law enforcement strategy sessions attended by local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement agencies in addition to both the state and federal prosecutorial agencies.
These sessions examine crime data to determine not only where the most violent geographical areas are but also the individuals and gangs driving the violence. Information is shared between agencies in order to develop targeted strategies for prevention and enforcement. Based on the analysis of crime data, patrol and strategic efforts are focused weekly on geographic locations with the largest number of violent incidents until those violent incidents have been reduced. Agencies also coordinate prevention efforts, through a Group Violence Intervention (GVI) model, around high-risk events, such as court hearings in gang retaliation shootings. South Bend has several programs whose goals are to proactively investigate and/or defuse criminal activity.
Fort Wayne, located in Allen County, is in the Northeastern area of the Northern District of Indiana and has a population of 266,000 with total county population of 388,000. Fort Wayne is eager to work with the community to reduce violent crime through a variety of different avenues. Current efforts by the city have seen some success in keeping violent crime from spiking like it has throughout other cities. Fort Wayne has a comprehensive community outreach program offering a myriad of presentations to residents and businesses. They have a podcast that puts the human touch on law enforcement along with a community Liaison Office, Safety Village and SRO program.
Project Safe Neighborhoods funds would assist in addressing surging gun violence problems as well as associated problems with organized and unorganized gang activity in Lake and Tippecanoe Counties, the City of South Bend and if needed Fort Wayne. At least 30% of the award will be allocated to address gang activity in the assigned focus areas. These funds would also assist in community support and outreach. In the described areas, gang activity is often intertwined with gun violence and drug trafficking.
Funding for these locations would enhance local law enforcement’s ability to face its challenges by providing increased personnel and equipment, needed specialized training in the area of interdiction and combatting violent crime and gang activity, and tools necessary for effective community outreach in order to engage the citizens of the affected neighborhoods. In speaking with community members, like the rest of the country, law enforcement and community relationships may be strained in our focus areas. Priority will be given to agencies that can work with community groups to foster the gap between law enforcement and the community through innovative engagement programs.
Project design and implementation
The selection committee task force will determine the grant funding and subawards based on proposal submissions along with track records of existing agency partnerships (including with federal agencies), engagement in community outreach, evidence-based decision-making, and enhanced and focused training. One of the larger goals of this funding is that it be used to enhance gang task forces or units in hopes of successful investigations and prosecutions along with engaging the community to reduce violent crime. This funding could be used for training, equipment, personnel, community engagement, or in whatever area gang units and task forces are in greatest need.
The fiscal agent charged with administering the funds is the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, which is the State Administering Agency for the distribution of federal funds. The task force is comprised of several former and/or current law enforcement officials, namely, Mike Carrington (former US Marshal), Dan Mitten (former ATF), and Dave Coulson (former ATF). Each of these members has decades of experience in law enforcement in Indiana and is familiar with the needs of the Northern District of Indiana and the challenges of serving the same.
The Northern District of Indiana’s PSN Task Force will be responsible for determining subawards based on strategies submitted. Previously, the selection committee, a subsection of the task force, was responsible for voting on subawards. As this requirement was removed from the requirements, the task force will not anticipate holding a competitive announcement. It was determined in the previous years that the burden of the competitive process was not justified by the minimal federal award.
The current PSN strategy’s focus on the City of South Bend and on Tippecanoe and Lake Counties is due primarily to the continuing and rising violent crime in these areas, however that could shift to Fort Wayne or elsewhere if violent crime spikes prior to the ability to implement subawards. The areas have tried to revamp law enforcement efforts in recent years with hot-spot policing, but their continual lack of funding has hampered their efforts. In no area is this more apparent than in gang task forces, where policing has traditionally been reactionary. With additional funding, these task forces could better use technology and data analysis to form strategies with the goal of proactive deterrence. The use of community engagement techniques will also be a focus in these areas to prevent involvement in gangs and violent crime before the violence occurs.
Capabilities and competencies
Lake & Allen Counties are HIDTA-designated counties. Through participation in the Indiana HIDTA, many Lake & Allen County law enforcement agencies work in collaboration with state and local law enforcement as well as ATF, DEA, and FBI. Federal agencies are increasing their participation in coordination with Tippecanoe County law enforcement agencies. South Bend has weekly strategy meetings, enforcement units, a group violence intervention program, and other initiatives that routinely work in partnership with area local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. All mentioned agencies have been involved in crime reduction efforts, with or without specific funding. PSN funding will assist in bolstering any current or new efforts.
Once the task force makes determinations on proposed subawards and those are approved by the ICJI, all recommendations will be sent to the appropriate Bureau of Justice Assistance policy advisor for approval.
Plan for collecting the data required for this solicitation’s performance measures.
The task force’s evaluation of subrecipients will include the respective entities’ ability to properly collect, analyze and report data associated with the grant. Any subrecipient to receive grant funding will need to demonstrate past experience in data reporting and analysis and plan for future analysis of crime statistics relative to the efforts and initiatives deployed. As data is collected by the approved subawards, task force members will ensure the data is made available to the Department of Justice and reported in the Performance Measurement Tool (PMT) by collection due dates.