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Elgin sees reduction in serious crime

ElgPolice Officer Steve Alcorn arrests Nathan Etzel 27 for selling herococaine Thursday May 30 2013 Elgin. The ElgPolice Department with

Elgin Police Officer Steve Alcorn arrests Nathan Etzel, 27, for selling heroin and cocaine on Thursday, May 30, 2013 in Elgin. The Elgin Police Department with help from the Kane County Sheriff and the FBI dispatched 8 teams of officers to conduct over 60 warrants to take heroin and other drug dealers off the streets. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

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down 6 percent

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Updated: March 3, 2014 3:11PM

ELGIN — Telling residents to lock up their cars — and anything else they don’t want stolen — seems to be working to prevent burglaries, police officials announced Wednesday.

The city has seen a 20 percent reduction in burglary to motor vehicles in 2013, a change Chief of Police Jeff Swoboda said comes for a variety of reasons, including the city’s “If You Like It Lock It,” program.

Overall, Elgin has seen a 6 percent reduction in “Part 1” crimes in the past year, Swoboda said as the police department announced its 2013 crime statistics.

Part 1 crimes are those “serious crimes that are committed against people and property,” and includes burglary to motor vehicles, residential burglary, theft, robbery, criminal sexual assault and homicide, among others.

Even as the city’s population has grown, Elgin has seen a decrease in Part 1 crime in the last 40 years, Swoboda added.

In 1972, Elgin had 2,659 Part 1 crimes. That rose to 4,905 in 1989, but has fallen to 2,146 in 2013, he said.

In terms of Part 1 crimes per 1,000 residents, the numbers look even better.

In 1972 with 55,000 residents, 48 Part 1 crimes were reported per 1,000 residents. That has dropped to 20 Part 1 crimes per 1,000 residents last year, Swoboda said.

While the Elgin Police Department has not eliminated all violent and property crimes, Swoboda said, the department has good programs in place to help continue to reduce those statistics, he said.

“The overall theme is that we are pleased that we have seen a 6 percent reduction, but we are by no means satisfied and believe that we have been victorious against crime,” Swoboda said.

It does stand out, however, that burglaries, burglaries to motor vehicles and robberies are at a near 20-year lows, he said.

There have been some increases, particularly in arson, which saw a 40 percent increase from 2012. There were 10 incidents of arson in 2012, and 14 in 2013, Swoboda said.

Nine of those appear to have been started by one individual, however, said Commander Ana Lalley.

There was also a 20 percent increase in reported aggravated assaults — from 35 reported last year to 42 reported in 2013.

Elgin’s homicide rate remained the same for the past two years — three in each year. However, two of the homicides were cleared with the arrest of a neighbor. The third murder was the shooting death of Alexis Huerta, 19, on March 27. That case, believed to be gang-related, remains unsolved.

Gang-related crime, however, is also down in the community, Swoboda said. It has decreased 22 percent in the past year, and is now at a 10-year low, he added.

The perception of gang crime may not have changed in the community, Swoboda acknowledged.

That might be his department’s own fault, Swoboda said, because it communicates with residents via Facebook, press releases and other social media. There also might be a perception that crime is up because of how residents interact with each other through social media.

That same social media, however, is an effective tool against crime in the community, he said. Residents who call the police when there are problems are the most effective deterrents to crime, he said.

Officers plan to focus on continuing to reduce burglaries, burglaries to motor vehicles and thefts in 2014, Swoboda said.

Thefts are by far the most-reported Part 1 crime, with 1,111 reported last year. Of those, about ¼ are retail thefts — shoplifting charges — and mostly on Randall Road, Swoboda said.

Other thefts include property left unsecured in yards, on tables, or in garages left open. Catalytic converters and copper pipe and wiring has also led to the increase in thefts, said Commander Bill Wolfe.

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