DeKalb police seek more help as calls increase

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 5:30 a.m.CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 12:14 a.m.CDT

DeKALB – DeKalb police are looking to hire more officers in the coming months as their current force racks up more overtime because they are shorthanded.

Police Chief Gene Lowery said the department has the budget to hire five more officers. One of those officers is going through academy training. But he added, he will ask the DeKalb City Council “to address ... additional needs for the police department above and beyond what our authorized strength is.”

Lowery declined to say anything further on the topic, but he’s already given the City Council an idea of their workload. Lowery said between Aug. 23 and Sept. 30, the department handled 4,748 incidents, a 9.8 percent increase from the same period in 2011.

Serious crimes such as murder, robbery, sexual assault, motor vehicle theft, etc. decreased by 21.6 percent between 2011 and 2012 during the five-week period. But less serious crimes, including simple battery and drug offenses, increased by 19.1 percent.

Police expect to handle 7.1 percent more calls this year compared with last year.

Lowery said there could be a number of reasons for the drop in violent crimes and rise in some of the lesser crimes. With a lot of resources focused in the northwest part of the city, where most students live, Lowery said there would be more reported cases with more eyes and feet on the ground there.

He also noted the department’s proactive policing. In 2011, DeKalb police made three warrant attempts in the Aug. 23 to Sept. 30 time period. In 2012, those attempts increased to 108.

During that five-week period, the police have received 2,476 calls for service in the city’s northwest quadrant – north of Lincoln Highway and west of First Street, where the vast majority of Northern Illinois University students live. That’s a 30 percent increase – or 577 calls – from the same area during the same time period in 2011.

“The demand for services increased dramatically upon their return,” Lowery said. “It doesn’t mean they’re all the offenders in this situation. It doesn’t mean they are all of the victims. But it’s certainly something we have to be cognizant of in any city that hosts a major university.”

Having reviewed the data and speaking with senior members of his staff, Lowery said the activity in 2012 was higher than what the department had experienced before.

“For whatever reason, in this five-week period, we’ve experienced a greater demand for service,” Lowery said.

The demand for police service has translated into officers working overtime, Lowery said. From Aug. 19 to Sept. 29, DeKalb officers logged 2,439.5 hours of overtime, a 70 percent increase from the previous year, when officers worked 1,435 hours overtime.

Overtime costs increased as well. In 2011, the city paid officers $98,420 in overtime between July 1 and Sept. 29. In 2012, those costs increased by 35.7 percent, to $133,623 during the same period.

The police department is authorized to have 63 officers, but because of past funding constraints, they have only 58. This includes Lowery and other officers who do not do regular patrol and investigative work.

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