GARY, Ind. (CBS) — Gary’s new mayor is pledging to put the brakes on a growing number of burglaries in the city.
As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, that’s just one item on Karen Freeman-Wilson’s “to-do” list after taking office as Gary’s first female mayor.
Public safety in general is a priority and a new tip line will offer financial incentive to citizens who help fight crime.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Freeman-Wilson introduced three key members of her public safety team on Wednesday: her public safety director, retired U.S. Army Col. Richard Ligon; her fire chief, Teresa Everett, most recently a fire chief in College Park, Ga.; and police chief Wade Ingram, a former Markham police chief.
“Public safety is a major concern and a key component for the rebirth of Gary. To attract businesses and developers to this city, investors must feel a sense of safety and security,” Ingram said.
For her part, Freeman-Wilson said, “We have set the standard high, because we believe that the citizens of Gary deserve to be and live in a safe community.”
Ingram, a 30-year police veteran, also worked at the Cook County Sheriff’s Department and the Chicago Police Department.
Freeman-Wilson acknowledged a recent spike in burglaries in Gary, but said police have made headway, thanks to citizen involvement.
To keep residents participating, the city has set up a new anonymous hotline that will net tipsters a $50 reward if the tip leads to an arrest.
“We are confident in our ability to fund the tip line,” Freeman-Wilson said. “If we get 1,000 tips this year, that’s $50,000. That’s a significant sum but the other side of that is that it means we will be safer community because of those tips.”
Freeman-Wilson said implementing the safeguards so that tips can be phoned in and rewards claimed anonymously will take several weeks, but said the new system will be in place sometime in February.
New Fire Chief Teresa Everett served most recently as the fire chief in College Park, Ga. She was previously a deputy chief in Rochester, N.Y. and was emergency management coordinator with the Broward County, Fla., Emergency Management Agency.
Coordinating the police, fire and emergency efforts will be Public Safety Director Richard Ligon, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former U.S. Postal inspector. He said Gary will seek to implement permanent preventive and rehabilitative solutions to lessen the immense costs caused by substance abuse, and resulting crime.
Freeman-Wilson expects to obtain Common Council approval of the appointments within 30 days.
The new public safety bosses said they’re all eager to help change the image of a city that’s had more than its share of bad times.
Gary had 35 murders last year, down from 52 the year before, but the mayor said that’s not good enough.
“We ask that you certainly be patient with us, but at the same time, we want you to know that we have set the standard high,” Freeman-Wilson said.
The new mayor also announced a number of other changes.
Gary is woefully short of heavy snowplows, but it will begin aggressive ticketing when two inches fall on snow routes and towing when four inches fall.
Freeman-Wilson said the signs have been posted for years but routinely ignored. She said some routes would get special attention from plows, mentioning Fifth Avenue, police and fire stations, as well as schools and hospitals. She also said county and state agencies would be asked to help out.
A street repair priority list will be ready by spring, beginning with downtown thoroughfares and working its way out into Gary’s residential neighborhoods.