Theft, break-ins drove River Forest crime uptick in 2016

Violent crime incidents dropped overall last year

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By Deborah Kadin

Crimes against property and people rose overall by 9.2 percent in River Forest last year, with burglaries from autos and thefts accounting for much of the increase, according to statistics released recently by the village's police department.

On the decline, though, were arrests for marijuana possession, dipping 48 percent over last year. The drop was attributed to a change in state law in 2016 that decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, Deputy Chief Jim O'Shea said. 

Under the new law, possession of 10 grams or less is punishable by fines of $100 to $200, instead of jail time.

Despite the uptick, especially in property crimes in 2016, River Forest is a safe community, Police Chief Greg Weiss said. 

"I pride myself in saying that. What we are most concerned about is safety," Weiss said. "If I can give them a sense of safety we're doing our job." 

Incidents in River Forest center on property crimes, Weiss said. From 2008 to 2015, thefts, residential burglaries and burglaries from vehicles have remained steady, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Arrests, particularly for theft, have also remain steady.  

Here are how the statistics broke out for 2016:

The only property crime that dropped was residential burglaries, which went from 46 in 2015 to 42 in 2016. Others rose, including:

Burglaries from vehicles rose 53 percent, from 38 in 2015 to 58 in 2016.

Thefts increased 8 percent, from 173 in 2015 to 186 in 2016.

Vehicle thefts rose from three in 2015 to five in 2016.

There were no arsons reported or investigated in 2016; there were three in 2015.

O'Shea said the department will step up community education to prevent car break-ins so residents and keep their personal property safe. People need to remember to keep their eyes on the valuables, lock their car doors and take their keys and valuables with them. 

Residents also should keep the serial numbers of their phones, laptops and tablets and have a track on the location of their electronics. 

"We always appreciate that residents feel safe working, living or traveling in our community," O'Shea said. "We encourage best practices for home and personal safety. We continue to encourage public involvement. They are the eyes and ears and protectors of the community. They need to call in crime when they see it. They assist us in keeping the village safe, and we are partners with them."

Regarding violent crimes, no homicides or criminal sexual assaults were reported in 2016, and incidents of aggravated assault/battery dropped 23 percent, 13 in 2015 to 10 in 2016.

Robberies increased from five in 2015 to seven in 2016 were down 33 percent, from nine in 2015 to six in 2016.

In terms of traffic enforcement, arrests for drunk driving were down 49 percent, from 99 in 2015 to 50 in 2016. Traffic citations written by police were 10 percent, from 2,962 in 2015 to 2,680 in 2016.

Traffic accidents also declined 6 percent, from 588 in 2015 to 554 in 2016.

 Information for monthly and annual reports begin in the Department's Dispatch and Records Management System, where an event is categorized based on Uniform Crime Reporting codes. The categorized events are sent to the Illinois State Police and FBI electronically every month, O'Shea said.

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