By Jean Lotus
Oak Park and River Forest police reported a drop in serious crimes in 2014, part of a crime-falling trend over the past two decades, said Village Communications Director David Powers. The two villages released statistics reported to the Illinois State Police under the state's Uniform Crime Reporting Index (UCR).
Oak Park police reported 1,665 serious crimes or "Part I Offenses," down seven percent from the 1,798 crimes reported in 2013. River Forest police reported 263 serious crimes to the state police, down by 14 percent from 305 in 2013.
Of Oak Park's serious crimes, the majority, 1,493, were thefts and burglaries, as has remained constant in Oak Park for decades.
"Our 2014 statistics illustrate just how safe it is to live in our community," Police Chief Rick C. Tanksley said in a statement. He added that many burglaries were to garages, with two-thirds of garage burglaries through an unlocked door or window.
Village Manager Cara Pavlicek credited "the collaboration of dedicated police officers and an active, engaged citizenry," with the drop in crime.
A summary of other crimes:
Robberies and crimes to persons: Oak Park reported 83 robberies, 15 aggravated assault/batteries and five criminal sexual assaults in 2014. Robberies were about the same from 2013, which had 85 robberies. Oak Park police made 19 robbery arrests in 2014. River Forest reported seven robberies, up from five in 2013. River Forest arrested three for robbery, down from four in 2013.
The number of aggravated assaults in Oak Park was down 58 percent from 36 in 2013. Police said that in the majority of these cases, offenders knew their victims and were reluctant to prosecute. River Forest police reported 10 cases of aggravated battery and assault, up from nine in 2013.
In all five cases of criminal sexual assault in Oak Park, the offenders and victims knew each other, police said. Two cases of criminal sexual assault were reported in River Forest.
Auto thefts: Oak Park police reported 75 auto thefts this year. Car thefts were up from 59 in 2013. Police said an area-wide car crime spree targeted minivans. Police made four arrests for auto vehicle theft in Oak Park, Forest Park and Chicago. River Forest reported two car thefts and made no auto theft arrests.
Arsons: Four arsons took place in Oak Park this year, down from five in 2013. One arson arrest was made and two others are under investigation, police said. No arson this year was reported in River Forest.
Homicide: No homicides were reported in either village. The last reported homicide in Oak Park was one in 2011.
Cannabis and other drugs: The number of cannabis arrests in Oak Park was up by 65 percent from 23 in 2013 to 38 in 2014. Oak Park police arrested 20 people for possession of other drugs, up 43 percent from 14 arrests in 2013.
DUI arrests: Oak Park and River Forest also bumped up the number of DUI arrests made in 2014. Oak Park police arrested 152 people for DUI, up 16 percent from 131 in 2013. River Forest made 101 DUI arrests in 2014, up 19 percent from 85 in 2013.
Calls for service: The total number of calls for service in Oak Park dropped by 2 percent in 2014 from 33,155 in 2013 to 32,651. River Forest police reported 9,747 calls for service, slightly down from 9,762 in 2013.
Arrests down: The total number of arrests for serious crimes dropped in Oak Park by 31 percent from 224 in 2013 to 155 in 2014.
River Forest police made only seven burglary arrests in 2014, compared with 32 in 2013. The total number of arrests in River Forest was down by 18 percent from 119 in 2013 to 98 in 2014.
Oak Park's Tanksley said the department was encouraged by the drop in crime but remains vigilant.
"Even though crime has been declining overall for years and last year's decline is significant, the police department never loses sight that each number represents a person who has encountered a criminal or criminal activity and may carry that encounter with them for the rest of their lives," he said.
Tanksley said Oak Parkers help the police by calling in suspicious persons or activities, which sends the message that Oak Parkers are on the lookout for crime.
River Forest Police Chief Gregory Weiss attributed the double-digit drop in River Forest serious offenses to an uptick in offenses in 2013.
Weiss credited "a dedicated team of professional officers, along with an investment in training and technology," as part of the reason for the River Forest drop in crime.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct the number of DUI arrests in 2014 by the Oak Park police. The correct number of DUI arrests in 2014 was 152, or 16 percent higher than the 131 DUI arrests in 2013.
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