Oak Park police will analyze crime block by block

Breaking down crime by location could reveal what attracts criminals to certain areas

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

In order to determine why criminals are attracted to certain areas of the village, the Oak Park Police Department has for the first time begun to analyze crime by the block — the smallest unit they have ever measured.

Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said a crime analyst in the department is keeping a database of approximately 625 blocks in the village and what types of crimes are occurring in each one. The department typically breaks down its crime statistics by beat, but getting down to the block level will allow them to see where it is most concentrated, which could then affect how officers in each of the eight beats are deployed, Tanksley said.

Tanksley recently attended a conference at George Mason University in Virginia, where he heard a talk by Professor David Weisburd, director of the school's Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy.

According to an Oxford University Press summary of his most recent book, The Criminology of Place, Weisburd and colleagues conducted a 16-year study of crime in Seattle.

They discovered that half of all the city's crimes each year occur on just 5-6 percent of its street segments, but the crime hot spots are not concentrated in a single neighborhood.

Tanksley said if this same research were conducted in Oak Park, police could determine ways the public, as well as officers, might respond differently. Is there more crime because a certain block has poor lighting? Do certain types of stores lend themselves to theft?

The idea for the study began about two years ago, Tanksley said, when he and former Village Manager Tom Barwin thought it would be helpful to look at some of the sociological factors that lead to crime. They wanted to determine what level of education and family makeup of offenders in order to come to conclusions about what society could do to eliminate crime.

Police generated a map showing where Oak Park arrestees live. The map showed they didn't travel far from their homes to commit crimes — many came from the West Side and neighboring suburbs — but more research is needed to determine the sociological factors underlying the crimes.

Tanksley said he hoped to begin analyzing the data in the coming weeks.

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OP Guy  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 9:42 PM

Im talking about between Erie and division, Ridgeland and Oak Park. Between Chicago and Division has shown to be relatively crime free on a consistent basis.

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 9:28 PM

@OP: If you mean by north central, the streets between Erie and Chicago, I would tend to agree with you.

OP Guy  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 8:27 PM

Violet, i know the difference, my tablet is the spelling culprit, and these comments sections offer no editing function. Yes the SW corner does indeed have little crime, but I've been studying the crime blotter for years and have found that the north central also is relatively crime free. Any place close to the borders and major arteries are going to be easier targets for criminal, as getaway is safer.

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 5:17 PM

Russ, I believe the article explained that if there are hot spots, they could concentrate in those areas. I recall a map with those pins in it online for OP in the past--this is hardly the first time it's been done. My whole thing is that even if we can ascertain that the borders to the east and north are probably most problematic, crime still occurs in many other areas.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 11:41 AM

I guess I don't get the point of the map. We already know folks from the poorer communities surrounding OP come here to commit crimes. I just want to know how to stop it. Reading the blotter, it shows petty thefts, etc in all parts of the villlage. I hate to say profiling, cops at the borders, and just a Dirty Harry attitude towards criminals, but at some point you have to say enough is enough.

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 11:29 AM

@OP Guy: No snark intended, but FYI, a boarder is someone who rents a room in a house. As for the border of Austin, it's obvious when crime occur there that it is due to the proximity to the West Side. However, from reading the blotters, it appears that no area is really off-limits. If I was to call one area the safest in OP, it would probably be the SW corner of town. I rarely hear of crimes over there. Obviously the areas by the Green Line: Lake St., N. and S. Blvd. are going to be common.


Posted: August 29th, 2012 10:29 AM

I'll sum it up for you. If you live on a street that opens to a north-shouth or east-west major thoroughfair (e.g., North, Harlem, Austin or Roosevelt), then you are either going to get burgled or robbed. I hate big brother stuff, but OP and RF should limit points of entry into each town and post cameras to monitor which plates are repeatedly coming in and out.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 9:21 AM

used to track where stolen autos from OP were being dumped in Chicago. The officer recovered so many stolen autos, he was investigated by staff at the OPPD for being part of the auto theft ring. Remember the new protocol for reporting offenses at the school, that was set in place and then pulled and supposedly revised and never seen again. Watch the map. The High School block with some 5000 residents in one block every school day will be crime free. Cooked books.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 9:13 AM

Its called a pin map. Three maps of Oak Park the same size placed next to each other, one map for each shift. Different colored pins represent different offenses. A robbery is a red pin. A robbery on day shift occurs on the 600 block N. Austin, a red pin is placed on the day shift map on the 600 block Austin.Photo in color all maps after the police period is ended and place in a binder for future reference. Pin maps, a 1960 police procedure reinvented for our community. Reverse pin maps were

oak park person  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 6:55 AM

I think this is an excellent idea. I am interested to see the results of the study.

OP Guy  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 12:42 AM

Cont. For some of the south side. And then a decent portion of south of 290 has somewhat less crime, though they do see the occasional crime as is butts up against the higher crime portion of Berwyn, which is north Berwyn. I hope new strategies that are effective come from this new research, as the criminals are not going anywhere, and new criminals get released from jail regularly back into their west side hoods.

OP Guy  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 12:37 AM

Cont. And you'll also notice that the center, especially on the north side from Chicago to division, Ridgeland to Oak Park, is relatively crime free. This is true to some of the center on the south side, but you have more apparel net builds there, which means a larger population of possible criminals. And then you have Madison which is a large through way for people on the west side, which makes for easy darting off and on to side streets. Columbus Park also acts as a bit of a buffer cont...

OP Guy  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 12:31 AM

Glad this is being done! Oak Park is the closest affluent community to Austin, and Austin has a high percentage of criminals. Where would the criminals from Austin have the easiest time shopping for treasure? Oak Park. All they have to do is cross the boarder, visit the first few blocks around the perimeter, and make a quick getaway back to the west side. If you look at the crime maps, you'll notice that a vast majority of crimes happen closer to the borders cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2012 11:14 PM

Chief Tanksley is going in the right direction with doing what would be considered a market research to determine why buyers, or in this case, criminals are attracted to certain areas. Could be more bushes to hide in from Patrolling Officers, or it could be as simple as the color of a home that attracts criminals to target. As for criminals doing crime close to home, that has been known for many years.

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