Feds, state work together to
fight crime, pool resources
By Sarah Tompkins nwi.com Monday, March 7, 2011
HAMMOND | At one time local, state and federal
law enforcement officers clung to their turf and
did not welcome other agencies venturing into
But those crime-fighting days are long dead. The
cooperation began a decade ago, after 9/11.
Now agencies are working together on
multijurisdictional task forces, sharing
resources and teaming up for training sessions
so that all law enforcement officers are one
step ahead of offenders, said David Capp, U.S.
attorney for the Northern District of Indiana.
"Local law enforcement know what's happening on
the streets, and local law enforcement know who
are the probable offenders in their district,"
Capp said. "I try to pair our resources with
that ... really focusing on the worst of the
Such was the case with 39-year-old Anthony
In 2009, a man alerted Gary patrol officers
Bandy was on a bike in an alley -- with a gun.
Bandy led officers on a chase, according to
court records, and during his arrest officers
found a revolver.
But Bandy was no stranger to the system. His
record included a three-year sentence for an
Indiana burglary and 20 years for aggravated
assault in Georgia. During a 14-year span, he
had tallied 15 felony and misdemeanor offenses.
Bandy's case could have gone to federal or state
"We're constantly working with local law
enforcement agencies to decide where do we want
to file this case -- and where can we get the
best sentence for the case," said Lake County
Prosecutor Bernard Carter, who works closely
with Capp and others to direct the region's
In the federal system, repeat violent offenders
deemed "career criminals" get significantly
enhanced sentences -- sometimes up to life in
prison. And in federal court an offender has to
serve 85 percent of the sentence, unlike in
state court where someone could get out early on
Bandy's case went federal, and he was sent away
for more than 18 years for possessing a handgun
as a felon.
The federally led Firearms Interdiction Regional
Enforcement is composed of local law enforcement
officers. Together the group ensures those
arrested for firearms violations undergo a
criminal background check so the maximum charges
and corresponding sentence can be applied.
But before the 2001 terrorist attacks, many
officials said that type of collaboration was
"I think 9/11 really was a catalyst that woke up
a lot of people in law enforcement," Carter
said, noting the lack of communication among
agencies led to missed warnings. "(Now) I don't
hear anybody saying, 'Don't step on my turf,
this is my jurisdiction.' "
Last year FIRE used ballistics technology to
link bullets to the guns used in about 25
crimes, according to Capp.
"We can go to another police department and say,
'You know that armed robbery from a year ago?
Guess what. We've got the gun,' " he said.
From there, Capp said officers track where the
gun came from, which can solve more crimes.
GRIT set stage
An earlier successful partnership that blossomed
in 1996 is the FBI-led Gang Response
Investigative Team, Capp said. The group's work
cut the homicide rate almost in half in the late
'90s, Capp said, and last year its
investigations led to 112 arrests and resulted
in more than 70 indictments.
Lt. Samuel Roberts,
spokesman for the Gary Police Department, said
the benefits stretch beyond arrest totals. Gary
officers who are part of GRIT have benefited
both in training and building working
relationships with other departments, he said.
The partnership between federal and local law
enforcement allows officers to cross the lines
where one town ends and another begins for their
investigation. Such movement is limited to
individual jurisdictions when local police are
not working with the federal government.
"The bad guys erased those boundaries years go,"
said Porter County Sheriff David Lain. "It's
absolutely the way our industry has to operate
in the 21st century -- total collaboration and
cooperation among all levels of police work."
GRIT's work led to a massive indictment last
year of alleged members of the Latin Kings
street gang. Because of fewer limitations,
investigators were able to link unsolved
homicides across multiple jurisdictions.
And while murder charges normally are state
crimes, Capp and Carter decided to combine them
under racketeering charges in federal court,
where the men still could get the death penalty.
All of the alleged Latin Kings are being held
without bond pending trial, which could be years
from now, according to court records. Carter and
Capp said the federal courts' ability to hold
offenders differs from the state system.
"In the state system, we can't do that under any
circumstances," Carter said. "We have to set
bail. It can be a high bail, but drug dealers
can come up with that money."
Capp said in some
cases, such as crack cocaine, the state system
carries steeper sentences. But ensuring
witnesses the offenders are not getting out
often makes them more comfortable and
And when law enforcement is investigating and
building cases against suspects, Sheriff Lain
said, the team mentality helps save money and
"We have a number of agencies that have certain
capabilities that everyone would like to have,
but because of financial constraints, you can't
afford," Lain said.
Lain said Lake County and Gary openly share
their helicopter with his department, and with
the only trained bomb squad in the region,
Porter is more than willing to offer its
services any time a fellow agency is in need.
"It's what causes success," Lain said. "We
cannot have too many resources."