Elgin crime rate 2nd-lowest of big Ill. cities
By Dave Gathman firstname.lastname@example.org June 26, 2012 7:36PM
A member of the Elgin Police Department investtigating the scene of a shooting of a 5 year old boy near 924 Elma Ave. in Elgin October 8 2011. Five-year-old Eric Galarza, who was a resident of the home, was struck and killed by a bullet intended for his father during the gang-related shooting. October 15, 2011 | Sun-Times Media~File Photo
2011 FBI crime rate statistics
Crimes per 10,000 residents
Violent crimes include murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assaults.
Property crimes include burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
City Pop. Total Robbery Aggravated Property Burglary
violent assault crimes
Aurora 198,495 31 8 21 194 48
Chicago 2,703,713 NA 52 46 437 98
Elgin 108,514 26 8 11 191 51
Joliet 147,877 35 6 27 261 63
Naperville 142,280 8 2 6 148 21
Peoria 115,353 70 25 41 471 149
Rockford 153,331 137 37 91 464 123
Springfield 116,600 110 22 78 615 162
Source: FBI Preliminary Uniform Crime Report 2011
Updated: July 28, 2012 6:12AM
ELGIN — A year ago, Elgin got some undeserved negative publicity when FBI crime statistics for 2010 concluded the City in the Suburbs had one of the highest rates of violent crime per capita of any large city in the state.
What most observers who mentioned this on Chicago TV and radio stations did not explain was that the bulk of these “violent crimes” were actually a series of 2011 strong-armed street robberies, many of which involved intoxicated men walking late at night being mugged in a handful of neighborhoods.
But when the FBI recently released its Uniform Crime Reports for 2011 for cities of more than 100,000 people, Elgin had nothing to be embarrassed about, with or without footnotes. Of the eight Illinois cities with more than 100,000 people, Elgin had the second-lowest number of both violent crimes per 10,000 residents and property crimes per 10,000 residents.
Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice said the agency is still collating crime stats for cities and villages with fewer than 100,000 people and doesn’t expect to publish those until about Oct. 1.
Elgin’s rate of 26 violent crimes per 10,000 people compares with 31 in Aurora, 35 in Joliet, 70 in Peoria, 110 in Springfield and a whopping 137 in economically struggling Rockford. Chicago’s rate was unavailable.
The only city to better Elgin’s violent-crime rate was Naperville, which has few low-income areas. It ended with just 8 violent crimes per 10,000, virtually a different order of magnitude from the other seven.
After the surge of robberies the previous year, the number of Elgin robberies dropped from 99 in 2010 to 82 last year. That gave it a rate of robberies per 10,000 people of 7.6, the third-lowest in the state. You were less likely to be robbed in Naperville (1.7 per 10,000) and Joliet (5.9 per 10,000), and had about the same chance of being robbed in Aurora (at 8.0 per 10,000).
But in Chicago you would be 6.5 times more likely to be robbed, in Rockford 4.5 times as likely, and in Peoria and Springfield about three times as likely.
There was less difference between cities in the rate of property crimes such as burglary and theft. But there, too, Elgin’s rate ranked second-lowest at 191 crimes per capita, bettered only by Naperville’s 148 and almost equalled by Aurora’s 194. Chicago, Peoria and Rockford all had more than twice as many property crimes per capita as Elgin.
When Elgin’s crime stats were released locally last winter, Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said that “serious crime is the lowest it’s been in more than 40 years.” However, he did single out a rising number of burglaries — many of them to vacant houses — as a cause of special concern.
Serious crimes — or what the FBI calls “Part I Crimes” — include homicide, robbery, rape, burglary, theft, arson and assault that causes severe injury or involves a deadly weapon. Last year, 2,372 serious Elgin crimes were reported, compared to 2,557 the year before, according to EPD statistics.
While the number of vehicle burglaries did go down in Elgin, the number of burglaries to homes and businesses zoomed alarmingly, from 425 in 2010 to 555 last year, according to the FBI’s numbers. Swoboda said in January that stopping burglaries would become a special focus of the police department’s activities this year.
Despite the increase, however, Elgin’s rate of building burglaries per 10,000 people remains relatively low — 51 compared to 21 in Naperville, 48 in Aurora, 63 in Joliet, 123 in Rockford and 98 in Chicago.
The capital city of Springfield had the highest rate of burglaries, with 162 per 10,000 people, almost twice as high as even Chicago’s rate, and three times as high as Elgin’s rate.
Reasons for drop
Swoboda credits the dropping Elgin crime rates to the police department’s “community-based policing” philosophy. That includes sending ROPE (Resident Officer Program of Elgin) officers to live in high-crime neighborhoods; “walk and talks” by police and city officials; a summer activities program to help keep children and teens busy; Night Out Against Crime and Neighborhood Watch programs; school liaison officers; and a unit of officers who do nothing but fight against street gangs.
Elgin had five homicides last year, compared to four in 2010. Only one has occurred so far this year — the gang-related shooting of a 16-year-old boy near an East Chicago Street skate park earlier this month. Two 15-year-old Elgin youths have been charged with murder in that case.
Staff Writer Matt Hanley contributed to this story.