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South Bend Police Chief addresses increase in violent crime

August 24, 2015

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South Bend Police Chief Ron Teachman says crime is up in South Bend, but shockingly few people even bother to call the police if they hear gunshots. That was part of what he told the Common Council tonight as they dressed the issue head on.

Councilman Henry Davis Jr. says he's been concerned about the violence so he asked the Chief to talk to the council. "I'm tired of hearing someone got shot in the head," Davis Jr. said.

"So am I," Chief Teachman replied.

The Chief admits there has been more violence. There was an almost 30% increase in murders from last June to this June. "Solving a homicide is not satisfying. Preventing a homicide is," Teachman said.

The good news, he says, is the Department's group violence work has decreased gang-related shootings, but non-gang shootings have increased. The Chief says one fix could be more people reaching out to police when they hear gunshots. "I don't feel as scared because I'm used to it," South Bend resident, Ariel Arnold, said.

ShotSpotter tells police when shots are fired, but it's only used inside a four-square mile area inside South Bend. Last year, only 11 % of residents in that area even called police when they heard shots last June.

"They're numb to it," said Councilman Davis Jr. "Exactly," said the Chief.

Chief Teachman asked each council member to go back to their home district and call police anytime they hear gunshots or see something suspicious.

"We need to resensitize our community and we need all of you to help us do that," Teachman said. He says his team spent the year encouraging communities to call in. This June, 33% of residents in the ShotSpotter zone alerted police.

"That's still anemic counselor, but it's showing progress," Teachman said. Still there's work to be done.

"If I hear a shot outside the bedroom window I kind of just duck and pray it doesn't ricochet in the house," said Ariel Arnold.

The conversation wasn't all about violence. Several council members talked about speeding and why the Chief won't re-start a traffic division. Teachman says keeping an eye on speeders is everyone's job on the force. He says even he pulls over speeders.

He also mentioned the County's Metro Homicide Unit is doing well. He says their success rate is way above the national average, but he says the number of homicides in a city doesn't give an accurate picture of how much gun violence there is. Not every gunshot results in murder.