By Jean Lotus
Oak Park crime dropped to the second lowest level in the last 41 years, according to statistics gathered by Oak Park police and reported to the Illinois Uniform Crime Reporting Index this week.
According to a statement from the village, the number of crime incidents reported fell nine percent to 1,798 in 2013, down from 1,967 in 2012.
Burglaries and thefts were the top crimes in Oak Park in 2013, as they have been for years. According to the village, 90 percent of all 2013 crimes were theft or burglary, with most being garage burglaries.
The category of thefts had the largest number of incidents in 2013, with 1,148 reported. This was a decrease from 1,341 in 2012, or a 14 percent drop.
Oak Park police reported 460 burglaries in 2013, up by eight percent compared to 426 in 2012. Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said in nearly two-thirds of burglaries reported in Oak Park, thieves entered through an unlocked door or window.
Police investigated 85 robberies in 2013, down from 99 in 2012. The village release pointed out that the overall robbery trend is decreasing. There were 107 robberies in 2011 and 133 in 2010. Tanksley said the 2013 number was the lowest number of robberies since 1972, the earliest year that comparable records were kept.
There were no homicides in 2013, compared to two in 2012.
Criminal sexual assault and aggravated assault/battery offenses remained the same in 2013, at five and 36 respectively.
Police said in all five sexual assault cases the victims knew the offenders and in each case, victims refused to cooperate with police, or there was insufficient evidence to prove a crime occurred.
Five arsons were reported to the UCR in 2013. Police said in four of the five cases, the affected party refused to cooperate. An arrest was made in the fifth incident, police said.
Calls for service dropped to 33,155 in 2013, compared to 33,521 in 2012. The average response time in 2013 was 3 minutes, 39 seconds for high priority calls, 4:42 minutes for medium priority calls such as accidents without injuries and 6:20 for low-priority calls, the police said.
The number of arrests for serious crimes also fell, police reported.
The number of robbery arrests in 2013 was 20, whereas in 2012 the number of arrests was 27.The number of burglary arrests also fell in 2013 to 21 from 32 in 2012. Police made 151 theft arrests in 2013, compared to 216 in 2012. The only category in which arrest went up was aggravated assault and battery, where police made 28 arrests in 2013 compared to 19 in 2012. Police said in most assault/battery cases reported the offenders knew their victims.
Oak Park police made a total of 54 drug-related arrests in 2013, down from 83 in 2012.
Tanksley commended the cooperation of local citizens working with community police to keep crime down in Oak Park.
"Our statistics demonstrate just how safe our community really is," Tanksley said in the press release. He also said crime data analysis was used to predict crimes and that helped put police in the right place at the right time.
Tanksley noted any crime is one crime too many.
"The Police Department has never lost 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 in the statement.
"Whether the overall rate is at its second lowest level in years really doesn't mean a lot to a victim of a crime, or if there's a continual nuisance in your neighborhood."
Tanksley said he and his staff tried to keep communication open to provide information to residents that would help them participate in police initiatives to lower crime even further.