By Devin Rose
The past year's 16 percent drop in crime in Oak Park — reported last week at a community forum — ranges from two percent to 25 percent, depending on which of the seven police beats you live in within the village.
But none of the village's seven resident beat officers took credit over their colleagues for a bigger drop in any of the zones they live and work in.
Instead, the officers talked about factors differentiating their zones from the rest, and reiterated the message Police Chief Rick Tanksley delivered at the community meeting — be a nosy neighbor, and never be afraid to call the police.
The zones are divided based on population density, said community policing Sgt. Dave Jacobson. In general, a zone that has a lot more people will have a lot more opportunities for crime.
A police beat such as Zone 3 that includes businesses up and down Lake Street as well as Oak Park and River Forest High School will likely have more thefts because it draws more people.
In Zone 2, Resident Beat Officer Elizabeth Dickson said she has a few parks, some apartments and many family residences on wide lots, which have less people than apartment-heavy zones such as near the intersection of North Avenue and Austin Boulevard to the east in Zone 1.
Dickson said her zone's 25 percent decrease in crime is not because of anything special she's done that other officer's haven't.
Zones bordering on el tracks or in areas with a lot of traffic, like 3, 4 and 5, provide plenty of mobility for people looking to commit crimes. Zone 6, which has apartments on Austin Boulevard and residential homes further west, shares the Madison Street corridor and has an arts district on Harrison Street that brings events and people to the area, said Officer Mark Scott.
Officer John Rumoro's Zones 7 and 8 contain five parks, he said, so bike thefts are a concern in the summer just as zones with more retail are a concern during the holidays.
Factors in each zone contributing to crime can't answer all the questions, however.
Officers said people will take opportunities to commit crimes anywhere they see fit, and many robberies occur between people who know each other.
Jacobson said one person who decides to kick in five or six garage doors at once could make an area's crime numbers increase dramatically if the area hasn't had incidents like that before. Criminals take opportunities until they see their luck is running out, said Scott, and then they'll hit different areas.
Going back to Tanksley's message, Jacobson and the officers said there is no substitute for neighbors watching out for each other because they know who belongs in their neighborhoods.
You can have a 90-pound pit bull and an alarm system on your house, Jacobson said, but it won't work as well.