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Our View: Welcome news: Crime declines

We hear the lament often from people, particularly those commenting on stories online, about how DeKalb County in general and DeKalb in particular are “turning into Chicago.”

Such statements usually are made in reference to news reporting about crime. The general perception seems to be that crime is bad and getting worse in the area.

Northern Illinois University Police Chief Tom Phillips has said before that perception is incorrect. The latest data from the latest Uniform Crime Report from the Illinois State Police back him up.

The annually compiled report showed that incidences of reported crimes actually declined year-over-year for the DeKalb County Sheriff, City of DeKalb, and Northern Illinois University police. Reported crimes increased for Sycamore Police.

The report tallies reports of criminal homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated battery, burglary, theft, auto theft and arson, as well as drug arrests, which are in a separate category.

The report isn’t a comprehensive look at all crimes perpetrated against people. It leaves out issues of Internet crime and fraud, areas that law enforcement officers say are on the rise.

But the crimes that most people truly fear – those that cause greatest personal harm, mental anguish or both – are on the decline.

In DeKalb, a city of about 40,000 that sees the greatest share of reported crime in the area, there were 1,433 crimes reported in 2013. That’s roughly 3 crimes for every 100 people for an entire year. It’s also about 6 percent less than the crimes reported in 2012.

The credit for some of the decline goes to law enforcement, whose job is to keep our neighborhoods safe and make those who might want to commit crimes feel unwelcome in our area. In DeKalb, for instance, officers are taking a more proactive approach to stopping street crime and street gangs, and working with a federal drug task force. The city also has a free mobile app, iWatch DeKalb, that allows citizens to report everything from tips about crime to building code violations to authorities.

The decline in crime also could be a sign that economically, things are improving and fewer people feel the need to commit crimes.

A declining crime rate does not decrease the need for vigilance, as it’s unlikely that the crime rate ever will fall to zero. Even in societies that mete out the most draconian punishments, there are people who break the law. 

But it is important to remember that a few high-profile incidents don’t make our hometowns unsafe places. In fact, data show that they’re getting safer, and for that, we can be grateful.

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