Check this out: You can go online at the Oak Park village website (www.oak-park.us) then click on “Crime Reports”. You get a coded map that identifies all the crimes reported for a given day and where they took place. Scroll down and you get the same thing for a given month. Pretty cool.
:For example, on Jan. 8, 2008, it was pretty quiet – a retail theft, with the miscreant arrested at North Boulevard and Cuyler, and graffiti at Washington Boulevard between Cuyler and Harvey. A pretty good day until I remembered that Jan. 8 was Elvis’ birthday, so I’m guessing all the bad guys were busy eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches and watching Jail House Rock. Thank you very much.
So I checked the most recent month for which there are stats posted – November 2007. Whoa! There were lots of crimes. The different types of crimes are identified by different color symbols and the village map looked kind of like a Jackson Pollock drip painting. There were four red-dot armed robberies, seven green-dot robberies, two blue-fist aggravated batteries, seven green broken-window burglaries, 19 little brown car thefts from motor vehicles, and 27 purple paint-can cases of graffiti.
The village is to be congratulated for providing this information. I suspect Mr. Barwin and the trustees had some anxiety about this, but if we’re serious about community policing, then this is a start.
Of course, I immediately checked my block. Pretty good. There was a disproportionate amount of crime on the big streets like Lake, Madison and Austin. None of this is very surprising. While Oak Park and River Forest may not be an oasis in a desert of crime, Austin and Maywood do have a much more serious crime problem no doubt.
This crime business is always just below the everyday consciousness of every Oak Park resident’s mind. It periodically surfaces whenever we read of the rare murder or rape, or when we are the victim of crime – like when my bike was stolen from my garage last fall (pink asterisk – 11 in November).
Of course, if we’re using these maps to help us evaluate the quality of our living experience, we really need better, more comprehensive metrics. I wonder how many spouses were abused in Oak Park on Jan. 8; how many parents screamed at or hit their children; how many seniors were ignored; and how many gas-guzzling SUVs were purchased.
On the other hand, we would also need to know how many mentors and foster parents helped children; how many teachers provided inspiration to a student; and how many neighbors shoveled a walk for a senior. Does taking in your unfit niece’s child cancel out an armed robbery? Does helping a stranded motorist cancel out a graffiti incident? I’d like to think there are more good deeds than crimes in Oak Park.
But I digress. All in all, the daily/monthly crime report is a good thing. I have come to believe that the many problems that confront communities will not be solved by just paying high taxes and hiring government to do it. Each of us as a citizen of our Oak Park has to become more responsible and involved in solving the many difficult problems we confront.
The devil, as always, is in the details of defining that responsibility and involvement. Publishing these crime stats is a start. The truth is not the problem.