Oak Park residents are generally very satisfied with life in Oak Park, planning to stay in town for years to come, loving park district services and, for 9 of 10 ready to recommend the village as a place to live.
This is according to just released results from the 2022 National Community Survey, a standardized survey Oak Park has been conducting regularly through a national organization since 2000.
There is one area, though, which saw a notable drop in confidence and that is public safety. Just 6 in 10 Oak Parkers reported a “good” to “excellent” perception of overall safety. That is a 15% drop from two years ago.
Lessened feelings of safety are not something unique to Oak Park, Village Manager Kevin Jackson told the village board in presenting the survey results on Feb. 27.
“The trend we’re seeing here is the trend we’re seeing across the country,” said Jackson.
The survey did report that 9 of 10 residents feel safe in their own neighborhoods and in Oak Park’s downtown area during daytime hours. Those numbers are unchanged from 2019.
About 7 in 10 reported feeling safe from violent crime, while a marginally smaller percentage reported feeling safe from property crime – 63%.
Public safety remains a priority for Oak Park residents overall, with 96% of respondents rating it as an essential or very important area of focus for the village in the next two years. The dip in feelings of safety, however, provide an opportunity for improvement, according to the survey.
Reviews of departments and services associated with public safety saw some significant decline since the previous survey, including police services, which was ranked 89% “excellent or good” in 2019 and 75% in 2022. Crime prevention in Oak Park saw the biggest decline, with 58% “excellent or good” rating in 2022 from 71% in 2019.
Government polling platform Polco conducted the survey, as it has for the previous seven surveys. The National Community Survey measures the “livability” of a community based on residents’ opinions in 10 central areas: economy; mobility; community design; utilities; safety; natural environment; parks and recreation; health and wellness; education, arts and culture; and inclusivity and engagement. Since 2011 Oak Park has conducted the survey every two years.
The 2022 surveying period opened Sept. 28 and closed Nov. 16. During that time, Polco mailed the survey to 2,800 randomly selected households and received 505 total responses. It also received 347 responses to its open-participation survey. The results are benchmarked across more than 500 comparison communities in the U.S.
Faith in animal control and the police department remained stable from 2019 to 2022. Animal control and fire services maintained “excellent or good” ratings of 72% and 93%, respectively. Fire prevention and education kept its 84% “excellent or good” rating as well.
In a question specific to Oak Park, survey respondents where were asked to rate the importance of maintaining certain village services at least at current levels, compared to cutting service levels, maintaining police and fire services ranked among the highest in importance. About 9 in 10 rated each as essential or very important.