Work with ATF could help Fort Wayne police solve shootings
Crime reportMayor Tom Henry and Fort Wayne Police Chief Garry Hamilton announced Thursday that Fort Wayne's overall crime rate dropped by 14.5 percent in 2014 compared with 2013.
Henry and Hamilton credited part of the drop to creation of the police Gang and Violent Crimes Unit. Hamilton praised the work of Assistant Chief Stephen Reed, who took care of organizing the unit.
Henry also attributed the drop in crime to better communication between residents and police and city officials.
This year, Hamilton said his department plans to put extra effort into reviewing and trying to solve old murder cases. Fort Wayne Police also plan to work more closely with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on investigations.
By the numbers
Public safety statistics for 2014 include:
• Murders dropped to 12 from 32 in 2013, a 62.5 percent decrease
• Robberies dropped to 347 from 447 in 2013, a 22.4 percent decrease
• Assaults dropped to 353 from 376 in 2013, a 6.1 percent decrease
• Violent crimes dropped to 817 from 950 in 2013, a 14 percent decrease
• Property crimes dropped to 8,397 from 9,836 in 2013, a 14.6 percent decrease
• Rapes rose to 104 from 95 in 2013, a 9.5 percent increase
• Arsons rose to 45 from 29 in 2013, a 55.2 percent increase
Hamilton attributed the increase in rapes to the FBI's decision to count criminal deviate conduct crimes as part of the rape category rather than as a separate category. He believes the increase in arsons may result from the weak economy, tempting more people to burn buildings to collect the insurance money and because of the increasing number of homes in foreclosure.
Fort Wayne Police Chief Garry Hamilton said his department is working with the ATF, which has the ability to analyze bullets and shell casings from one incident and match them with similar ammunition used in other shootings.
Hamilton, speaking after a city press conference Thursday on the reduction last year in local crime, said he hopes the ATF's help will allow his department to pull together some cases and make an announcement within several months.
Police also are monitoring how and where guns are coming into the community, he said. Indiana law state gun buyers must be age 21 or older, but you can get a permit to carry a gun at age 18. So adults are buying guns and then passing them on to those not yet age 21, Hamilton said.
Police also suspect some guns reported stolen actually have been passed along to someone else illegally, he said.
Police regularly get reports of gunshots. However, the problem reached a new level recently when two innocent people apparently were hit by stray bullets: Police found a man dead Wednesday night on the second floor of a home in the 3000 block of South Hanna Street. A week earlier, a woman was critically injured by bullets that came through the outside wall of her home in the 800 block of Hamilton Avenue.
It is difficult for police to investigate "shots fired" calls, Hamilton said. They received nearly 1,230 such calls last year.
But when they start to get several in one area, they can concentrate patrols there and to see if there is a pattern, he said.
Citizens can help by reporting any suspicious activity, such as people gathering in a location or a lot of people coming and going from a home or building, Hamilton said. Providing any details, such as people always come and go from a back door or an alley, also greatly helps police.
To report suspicious activity, Hamilton asked people to call Crime Stoppers at 436-STOP (436-7867) or use the Fort Wayne Police website at www.fwpd.org and click on the link in the upper right corner to "Privately report drugs, gangs or illegal guns."