Porter County Sheriff's Department

What's Happening at The Porter County Sheriff's Department


Safe Place News Conference

Porter County Sheriff Department Safe Place News Conference

Porter County Sheriff David Lain will hold a press conference September 22that 1:00 pm,

at the Porter county Sheriff’s Department training room.

The Safe Place program is a crisis intervention program for youth that have run away or have a history of running away.

This collaboration between Safe Place and the Sheriff’s Department will provide round-the-clock access to youth in crisis.

Each Porter County Sheriff Department squad car will display a Safe Place decal.  

Porter County boasts more Safe Places

By Susan Emery Times Correspondent September 23, 2010


WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | The Porter County Sheriff's Department announced Wednesday it has joined a program that helps youngsters who may be abused, neglected or homeless.

The national program provides children ages 6 to 18 with access to immediate help and resources through a network of sites at agencies and businesses.

There are 36 sites in Porter County, including YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, libraries and fire departments. Each site displays the Safe Place yellow-and-black diamond-shaped logo. Children will see the logo and know help is available.

Porter County Sheriff David Lain said the logo will be placed on all

65 police squad cars. He said the program supports department efforts to build a positive rapport with children.

"We think it's important for the sheriff's department to reach out and develop another positive approach to youth," Lain said.

The program also gives officers another option when called to a domestic disturbance involving a parent and child, said Kathleen Marencik, coordinator of Alternative House, a temporary emergency shelter for youth located in Gary's Miller neighborhood.

"There may be no arrestable offense, but clearly there's an emotional one," Marencik said. "This is an opportunity to have someone removed from the situation, but they're offered services as opposed to a record."

Officers can refer youth for counseling to the Crisis Center Inc. of Northwest Indiana, which administers Alternative House and Safe Place programs.

Implemented in Lake County in 1987, Safe Place expanded to Porter County in 2008.

Safe Place Program Coordinator Nikki Wielgos said Chicago joined the list of cities with Safe Place programs last week. She hopes public service announcements and visits to local schools will help build the program in Porter County.

"I think we're seeing an increase in public awareness," she said.

For more information about Safe Place, visit crisiscenterysb.org or nationalsafeplace.org.



Patrol cars offer safety to youngsters in trouble

September 23, 2010

By Amy Lavalley, Post-Tribune Correspondent


VALPARAISO -- Porter County Sheriff's Department patrol cars now sport yellow, diamond-shaped stickers to let runaways and homeless youths know the cars are a safe place to go.

At a news conference at the Sheriff's Department on Wednesday, Sheriff David Lain and representatives from the Crisis Center Inc., a youth shelter in Gary's Miller section, kicked off the initiative, the latest in an effort to create awareness about the Safe Place program.

The stickers turn the patrol cars into mobile sites, so youths can be transported directly to the Crisis Center to receive services, as well as making both young people and their families aware of the services available if police are called during a domestic situation, said Kathleen Marencik, coordinator of the Crisis Center's Alternative House program.

"Officers are paid to uphold the law. They're not paid to be social workers," she said. "It's an opportunity to have someone removed from the situation, but be offered services as opposed to a (police) record."

Safe Place, which started nationwide in 1983 and began in Lake County in 1987, provides a place for vulnerable youths to go when they need help. In Lake and Porter counties, those places include fire departments, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, libraries and some banks and restaurants.

Staff members at those places -- which have the yellow stickers in a window -- can contact the Crisis Center, which will send someone to pick up the child.

Shelter staff will do an assessment, contact the youth's family and make service referrals as necessary, said Nikki Wielgos, Safe Place coordinator for the Crisis Center.

Safe Place started in Porter County about a year and a half ago, though Porter County is ahead of Lake County in offering up its sheriff's vehicles for the program. About half of the department's cars have the stickers, and all 65 of them will have the stickers within a month.

"This is something Porter County is in the vanguard of doing," Lain said.

The Crisis Center has 52 beds and serves children age 6 through their 18th birthday. Marencik said 193 children used the center's services last year, and the center has the capacity to assist Porter County youths. Porter County does not have a shelter for homeless and runaway children.

Only one Porter County youth has used a Safe Place location here so far, but Gavin Mariano, spokesman for the Crisis Center, said the county's program is still in its infancy.

"Having knowledge of that sign is the most important part," he said.

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