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October 4, 2019

Merrillville Police Team up with FBI to Combat Violence, Drug Related Crime

Investigators Assigned to Gang Response Investigative Team

MERRILLVILLE—The Merrillville Police Department has teamed up with the FBI’s GRIT (Gang Response Investigative Team) Task Force to combat violence and drug related crime in the region. Merrillville Police has assigned investigators to GRIT, which is funded in part by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative and the FBI’s Safe Streets and Gang Unit.

GRIT brings local agencies together under one roof to address violent crime in Northwest Indiana through concentrated enforcement efforts against drugs, gun violations, property crimes, and gangs. GRIT not only seeks out the worst of the worst criminals, but also targets those who conspire with them, to rid communities of their organization’s criminal influence.

GRIT provides resources such as funding, equipment, expertise, intelligence resources, and FBI agents to cities who commit officers to joining the task force. These resources can have big benefits for a local agency, many of which battle for funding and manpower. By committing a small amount of manpower to GRIT, police can reap the benefits of adding 15 experienced GRIT investigators working on their specific crime problems.

“When you bring federal resources to bear in a community, all the money and FBI agents in the world can only take you so far,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent and GRIT Task Force Supervisor Michael Peasley. “But, when you combine what the FBI has to offer with the expertise, knowledge, and resources of local police officers, you end up with a winning combination.”

The new Task Force Officers (TFO’s) have hit the ground running and are already working high profile cases in Merrillville. The new investigators had just joined GRIT in March 2019 when they stopped the attempted armed robbery of an armored car on U.S. 30 in Merrillville. GRIT worked with the FBI’s Chicago Field Office to arrest the two robbers as they were about to commit the crime. Both of the men pled guilty in federal court in August 2019 and are facing maximum sentences of 20 years in federal prison.

“The FBI GRIT task force has been instrumental in proactive police work in the Merrillville and Lake County area. Using their specialized methods and resources, their investigations have led to several, high profile criminal arrests while serving as a cost effective program to law enforcement agencies throughout the Northwest Indiana region,” said Merrillville Police Chief Joseph Petruch. “We look forward to being part of the team and continuing in these efforts to suppress criminal activity in Merrillville and the surrounding areas.”

GRIT Investigators are provided training in several disciplines and use that training to further their cases as well as pass on what they learn to FBI agents and TFO’s across the country. GRIT Investigators recently presented one of their investigations to agents and officers in Boston, Massachusetts, and Richmond, Virginia with the goal of assisting them in progressing cases they have in their areas.

“This group is an extremely effective team which has proven to reduce crime by combating the unique problems communities face in the region. We do that through the partnerships we have with our local law enforcement and we are thankful to have the Merrillville Police joining our team,” Peasley said. “We are excited to see what we can do in their city. These partnerships have proven highly effective and have not only benefited the departments, but also the FBI. Those GRIT Investigators will return to their departments with knowledge and expertise gained during their assignment and ultimately, that makes their community safer.”

GRIT has also teamed up with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Hammond Police Department, Gary Police Department, Hobart Police Department, and the Indiana State Police.