Special Report: Police fighting back as Chicago crime spills into Indiana
CHICAGO - Chicago criminals are targeting Indiana and police there say they are fighting back.
"We've seen a lot of vehicles being stolen in Illinois or Chicago, crossing into the Indiana state line, committing other crimes, drive-by shootings, homicides, burglaries," said Lake County Indiana Sheriff Oscar Martinez, Jr.
From fast cars to new technology, his department is using every means possible to catch up to criminals.
"They think if they get to the Illinois state line or Chicago that the Lake County Sheriff's Department will not chase them. Well, that's incorrect," Sheriff Martinez said.
To keep up with criminals, the department purchased nine high-performance vehicles.
"These vehicles are the common vehicles that car thieves steal because they're high-performance vehicles. They have 707 horsepower, they do nearly 200 miles an hour, so our police cars can't keep up with these types of vehicles," said the sheriff.
The high-performance vehicles include Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Chargers. The sheriff says they were purchased without using taxpayer dollars.
"We will chase you. We will catch you. And we will take you to jail… we will extradite you back into Indiana where our prosecutor is a stickler on crimes here," he said.
This year already, the Lake County Indiana Sheriff’s Department has had 84 pursuits. They had 95 in all of 2020. In half of the cases this year, they caught up to the criminals and arrested them.
Indiana law enforcement say criminals often run to the Illinois border.
"Yes we've stopped cars [that] have had guns in them that were on their way to Chicago," said Sergeant Glen Fifield with Indiana State Police.
The pursuit policy for Illinois State Police is much stricter than Indiana. Troopers must assess risk based on a 14-point check list. They also cannot pursue for traffic offenses, while Indiana State Police can, depending on the severity of the offense.
In Chicago, police are not allowed to chase a vehicle unless it’s first approved by a supervisor who must determine if the risk of a chase is greater than the risk of letting someone escape.
"You have to allow your officers to do their job and doing their job properly, holding them accountable but also giving them the resources, the training and the equipment to do their job," said Sheriff Martinez.
Illinois State Police just installed license plate reading cameras on interstates. But Lake County, Indiana is already using the technology. More than 70 are already reporting to police.
"With that technology, we're able to identify stolen vehicles, individuals that are wanted on warrants, registered sex offenders that are frequenting or driving around parks or schools," said the sheriff.
Many of the stolen vehicles, the sheriff says, are used in drive-by shootings, homicides, ATM thefts and smash-and-grab burglaries.
"I feel we've taken more guns off the streets in the past two, three years because of the training that we're getting now and the equipment that we have," said Sergeant Shawn O’Keefe with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department High Crimes Unit.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim. The sheriff says always lock your car doors, don’t leave the keys in your vehicle, and always take firearms, purses and wallets out of your vehicle when you’re not in it.