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Griffith Police Arrest Subject, Credit Vigilant Citizens for Helping

19 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

Gazette Staff

At approximately 12:15 pm on December 16, 2013, the Griffith Police were notified by a resident that a subject in a green compact car had approached her residence and rang her doorbell continuously. The resident, having just exited the shower, did not immediately answer the door and instead yelled to the subject that she would come to the door shortly. After making this statement, the subject quickly returned to the green car and left the area.

Griffith Sergeant Todd Dawes responded to the area of the complainant’s home and, in the area of the 900 block of Wheeler, located a green compact car parked in a driveway, running and occupied by two men. Sergeant Dawes made contact with the two men who advised that they were present at the residence to visit a friend. Despite their claims, Sergeant Dawes noted that the men appeared to be nervous and that their car had a large screen TV, a gaming system and a jewelry box in the back seat. Additional officers were summoned to the scene and the two men, identified as David Woods (19 YOA) of Gary and Shane Parks (19 YOA) of Chesterton, were detained. Further investigation at the scene revealed that forced entry had been made to the home and that a burglary had taken place. A subsequent warranted search of the vehicle resulted in the recovery of all property taken from the Griffith residence as well as additional property that will likely be associated with other burglaries that have occurred recently in neighboring towns.

Both Woods and Parks provided statements to Detective Schoon regarding their involvement in this burglary.

On December 18, 2013, the Office of the Lake County Prosecutor charged David Woods and Shane Parks with Class B Felonies for Burglary. If convicted, Woods and Parks face 6 to 20 years in prison.

Chief Mance stated that, “Arrest like this show that the citizens of Griffith and the Griffith Police Department are working in unison to send a strong message that crime will not be tolerated in our community.”

Griffith Police Issue Alert Regarding Scams Targeting Seniors in Their Homes

19 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

Gazette Staff

Griffith, and other neighboring communities, have experienced recent incidents in which elderly citizens are approached at their homes by “a Hispanic looking man” posing as an employee of a utility company. The suspect in these cases then asks the resident to perform a task (usually to fill a bucket of water or to watch a testing device) as a distraction. Once distracted, the suspect speaks a foreign language into a “walkie talkie” like device and leaves the view of the resident. When this occurs, one or two accomplices enter the house and look for money or other precious metals to steal from the unsuspecting resident.

These types of incidents are called “Gypsy Scams” because they are most often committed by Gypsies, a wandering group of people of Romanian, Yugoslavian, Russian, Polish and Hungarian descent. And, unfortunately for us, our nearby neighbor of Chicago has a known and substantial population of active Gypsies.

To prevent being a victim of a Gypsy Scam, please be suspicious of anyone that approaches your home and asks to come inside for any reason. If they are from a legitimate utility company they will have an official identification badge that will properly identify them as such. If you are at all suspicious lock your door and call 911.

Please pass this information along to all of your elderly family, friends and neighbors.

Highland Police Issue Burglary Alert

3 Dec

Gazette Staff

The Highland Police Department issued an alert advising residents to keep doors locked and report suspicious activity in the wake of recent daytime burglaries. The alert stated:

Several Daytime burglaries have occurred recently. Residents are reminded to secure your homes and to report any suspicious activity.

Griffith, Schererville, and Lowell police have issued similar releases in recent weeks.

Abandoned Homes or Abandoned Homeowners?

1 Nov

by Ken Davidson

 

Gary IndianaThe Gazette reported on the IHCDA plan to assist Gary and other Cities in the elimination of abandoned homes earlier in the week. You can see that story Here in case you missed it. This is the second in a series of articles examining what got Gary to the point that there are an estimated ten thousand abandoned and vacant homes throughout the city.  Most homes in Lake County are assessed by the County Assessor.  In Calumet Township, that is not the case.  As discussed below, the office of Calumet Township Assessor Jackie Collins is responsible for assessing the values of homes in Griffith, Gary and parts of unincorporated Lake County.

The Mayor attributes the problems in Gary, in part, to the foreclosure crisis. The foreclosure crisis is a national problem that plagues nearly every urban area in the country. Gary, however, was hit less hard by the foreclosure crisis than any other city for two reasons. First, there was never a real estate bubble in Gary, Indiana. There was not a time when homeowners refinanced their homes and took large amounts of cash out because the values never rose rapidly. Second, Gary has a higher rate of homeowners with no mortgage than any other city in Lake County and probably the state.  State Senator Earline Rogers made no  comments regarding the cause of the crisis other than to refer to Indianapolis as the “Hoosier Holyland” which suggested to me that she blamed downstate lawmakers for the problems.

The Mayor and Senator Earline Rogers fail to mention the other likely reasons for the number of abandoned and vacant homes in Gary. We examined the lack of city services in a prior article (you can read that Here ). Lets talk about the taxation issues and how they cause homeowners to flee the city.

First, lets understand how properties are assessed in Indiana. The general assembly passed a law that allowed residents in certain townships to choose to keep or eliminate office of the township assessor. This was done by a referendum in 2008. The overwhelming majority of townships in Indiana who were given the choice eliminated the office of township assessor and county assessors are now performing the duties of assessing those areas in a more efficient manner. The voters of Calumet Township chose to keep their township assessor. That office is currently held by Jackie Collins.

This is the office that has failed to keep the Gary Housing and City of Gary properties off the tax sale rolls even when notified that the parcels are owned by a government agency. The City is now spending tens of thousands of dollars on private attorneys to retrieve hundreds of units that were erroneously taxed and sold. The same office that allegedly used public funds to send out flyers telling Gary residents that they may lose tax credits (statutory tax credits which are provided by the State of Indiana) if they did not vote to keep the office open. And this is the office that is responsible for determining the fair market value of land, buildings and personal property for all of Calumet Township.

Ralston Street was mentioned as one of the streets that received little in the way of City services at the IHCDA meeting, so I thought I would take a look at the tax values on Ralston. If we start at the corner of 24th and Ralston is one of those evil out of town landowners that was discussed by the politicians at the meeting. The home is assessed at $148,900. With a Gary Sanitary District Fee of $60 and a Little Calumet River Basin fee of $45, the total annual tax bill is $5,830.00.

Across the street, still at the corner of 24th and Ralston is an owner occupied home. It is assessed at $58,000 and has a homestead deduction (no mortgage deduction by the way). The total tax was $2008 last year but dropped to about $931.00 this year. There are late fees of $432.17 on a delinquency of about $1100.00 In order to avoid tax sale and stay in this home, the taxpayer had to pay $2067 in the first installment this year. The second installment of taxes due now is $443.39.

As you continue down the block, you finally get to some properties that seem to be properly assessed. INS Incorporated owns a home at the end of Ralston Street that is assessed at $12,000. There are others that show taxes in the range of $700 last year. No explanation as to why one homeowner, on the same block, paid nearly 3 times the tax last year and then was hit with another $432 in penalties.

The wild fluctuations in values from year to year and similar properties together with ever increasing fees have caused many homes in Gary to go to the tax sale. Even at the tax sale many homes remain unsold even for the amount of the delinquent tax. The market is that bad in Gary. People are not even buying homes for $2,000; yet residents are being charged that much and more for one year’s worth of taxes.

Griffith Police Issue Alert Regarding Robberies

31 Oct

Gazette Staff:

The Griffith Police Department issued the following alert regarding recent burglaries in the area of Arbogast and Wood Streets:

COMMUNITY ALERT: There have been several burglaries to garages and to two homes primarily reported between the areas between the 1200 block of Arbogast and the 1200 block of Wood Streets. All incidents have occurred during the cover of darkness, to inlcude the evening and pre-dawn hours. We believe two suspects are working in concert and are from, or are staying in, the immediate area. One suspect has been described as a white male, mid 20’s to early 30’s, average build, 5’10” to 6’00” tall, with a short “buzz cut” style haircut, wearing all camouflage. The other suspect has been described as a white male, 6’00” tall, husky build, short hair, full “Duck Dynasty” style beard, wearing a grey in color sweatpants and hoodie. Extra patrols are being instituted and investigators are actively pursuing leads.

Lake County Trick or Treat Hours 5-7 pm Oct. 31

28 Oct

Gazette Staff

 

trick or treat times announced in hammond, griffith, highland, dyer, st. john, lowell, cedar lakeTrick or treat hours for all Lake County cities and towns will be from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm with the exception of Gary.  Trick or treat hours in Gary will be from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on October 31, 2013.  As a reminder, the Indiana State Police offer the following halloween safety tips:

The Indiana State Police would like to remind parents of a few safety tips to observe during the Halloween holiday. Parents and children will be out in full force next week trick-or-treating and the Indiana State Police would like to remind parents that observing just a few rules will help can make the evening both fun and safe.
Costume Tips-
•Keep costumes short to prevent trips and falls.
•Try make-up instead of a mask. Masks often obstruct a child’s vision, which makes tasks like crossing the street and going up and down stairs dangerous.
•Make sure children wear light colors or put reflective tape on their costumes.Trick or Treating-
•Make sure older children trick-or-treat with friends. Together, map out a safe route so parents know where they will be.
•Instruct children to stop only at familiar homes where the outside lights are on.
•Encourage children to trick-or-treat while it’s still light out. If children are out after dark, make sure they have flashlights and travel on well lighted streets.
•Remind children not to enter the homes or cars of strangers.
•Follow your communities trick-or-treating hours.

Treats-
•Remind children not to eat any of their treats until they get home.
•Check out all treats at home in a well-lighted place.
•Only eat unopened candies and other treats that are in original wrappers. Remember to inspect fruits

Additionally, many communities, schools and churches offer children safe alternatives to trick-or-treating designed to keep children safely within parents’ view. Some hospitals and schools allow children to trick-or-treat by going from room to room virtually eliminating the dangers associated with being out walking on the street after dark.

Cell Phone Thefts May Not Be About Phones

21 Oct

by Ken Davidson

It appears that organized rings of criminals are perpetrating armed robberies for cell phones in northwest Indiana. First, we had the 5 Hessville armed robberies which appear to be gang related. At that time, Chief Brian Miller suggested there were similar robberies in East Chicago and Merrillville. Now an armed robbery in Schererville and reports of one in Dyer are causing great concern. According to a report issues by computer security giant Symantec, up to 50% of smart phones are lost or stolen in some major cities. The number is rising rapidly. The real question is why are these thefts on the rise and the answer may be personal information.

While there is a tremendous danger involved in the vicious armed robberies, the thefts may not be about the phones at all. Symantec reports that users are storing more data on their portable devices and are protecting it less. Bank accounts, credit cards, addresses and passwords and other personal information call all be retrieved by the savvy criminal after stealing a cell phone.

“If this was a test, mobile consumers would be failing,” said Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate, Symantec. “While consumers are protecting their computers, there is a general lack of awareness to safeguard their smartphones and tablets. It’s as if they have alarm systems for their homes, but they’re leaving their cars unlocked with the windows wide open.”

Those perpetrating the robberies may not be computer geniuses but a nationwide spike in thefts of electronic devices indicates that there is a thriving market for stolen devices. You can bet the street gangs have gotten into this lucrative market and are selling phones internationally.

Experts advise using security software such as Symantec’s Norton Mobile Security 3.0 The Software allows you to erase your data remotely if your portable device is lost or stolen.

Symantec also suggests additional security tips for a smartphone or tablet:

General Security Principles for PDAs and Smartphones
• PDAs and Smartphones must be password protected, preferably with a strong password (eight digits,
alpha-numeric)
• Devices must not be left unattended (while charging, for instance) – unless secured in a locked device or
room, or with an appropriate alarm6
• The wireless port on PDAs and smartphones must be disabled (to prevent transmission of confidential
data to unauthorized individuals)
• Appropriate anti-malware software must be installed and kept up to date
• Device operating systems must have the latest patches installed (which means keeping in touch with
your supplier’s Web site(s), as automatic updating is not yet a big feature of PDA and smartphone
operating system support)
• Any confidential (including corporate) information stored on a device must be encrypted, perhaps stored
in an encrypted database
• Back up regularly – by synchronizing the device with a linked computer