Crime dropped everywhere in Oak Park

More in some places than others. Police cite density and opportunity as variables

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

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.

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Posted: October 21st, 2011 7:46 AM

Looks like zone 1 is the smallest and zone and not much a decrease in crime. Why wouldnt it be taken over by Zone 2? The zone 2 officer seems to have done a great job in this large zone.


Posted: October 19th, 2011 2:26 PM

Maybe OPPD could provide crime stats at least thefts where the criminal didnt have to break in for the goods. This would explain alot. People who leave their cars, doors and garage doors open and have anything stolen are 10% responsible. These people have no right to complain about crime increasing.

leslie from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: October 19th, 2011 12:10 PM

I really like reading the crime reports in your newpaper. I'm glad crime has gone down here in Oak Park. I've noticed though how in quite a few of the stories stated how theives were able to walk right into peoples garages and take their belongings. I've noticed too how alot of people seem to leave their garages open, gates open, etc., this is just an open invitation to a thief to come take your stuff. Residents should lock up their garages if they are not in use and lock their gates as well

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