DeKALB – After experiencing the lowest crime numbers in 10 years during 2015, DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said that the wheels have fallen off on local crime in 2016.
According to DeKalb police’s annual report, which Lowery presented during Monday’s City Council meeting, Part I crimes – murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft and arson – rose 26 percent from 1,329 offenses in 2015 to 1,670 in 2016.
“In my 38 years in law enforcement, I’ve never seen such a dramatic increase in Part I crimes,” Lowery said.
While there were increases in all of the crimes in this class, the greatest change in these offenses was from property crimes, such as motor vehicle theft and burglary.
Burglaries to unsecured vehicles, in particular, accounted for the most significant increase in crime in 2016. Lowery urged residents to lock their vehicles.
A total of 73 juvenile offenders committed 149 Part I crimes in 2016. Lowery said this was partly because of a lack of accountability from their parents and within the courts, where they are being released to their families more frequently.
In 2016, the top 20 juvenile offenders with the DeKalb police had a total of 694 contacts with the police, accounted for 130 arrests for Part I crimes and generated 1,045 police reports.
The report also showed that the top female juvenile offender in DeKalb was 14 years old, had 104 contacts with the police and had been arrested 18 times. The top male juvenile offender was 17, had 95 contacts with the police and was linked to 83 crimes.
“Juvenile crimes are going off the charts,” Lowery said.
Part II crimes – including simple assault, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, drug and liquor offenses, gambling and prostitution – also rose from 6,584 offenses to 6,847, a 4 percent increase.
Weapon offenses increased from 59 in 2015 to 79 in 2016, and shots fired rose from 41 to 57.
In a search for ways for DeKalb police to change course, Lowery met with the chiefs of police from Illinois communities with state universities earlier this month in Champaign to assess what factors are influencing increased crime rates and what can be done to reverse this trend.
Police chiefs raised concerns about property crimes, gun violence, armed encounters with the police, heroin use and overall destabilization of neighborhoods.
With declining enrollment in Illinois universities, rental areas designated for students now are being inhabited by families who will not have access to public parks, grocery stores and other family resources, which may increase crime in these properties.
DeKalb’s crime-free housing program was cited by Lowery as an effective tool in reducing crime in or near rental property, as well as co-policing efforts with Northern Illinois University police.
“No one in this state has the level of cooperation, the partnership and the co-policing hand in hand with one another that we do,” Lowery said.
Police chiefs are expected to reconvene in the fall.
To combat future crime, Lowery said that the police department has implemented new policing strategies, such as the domestic violence unit and the target response unit, and is working to implement 20 new initiatives within the next 20 months, such as neighborhood policing programs and a juvenile delinquency risk reduction program.
He added that it is imperative that community members are talking with each other to increase neighborhood awareness of problems, and that economic growth and development would help prevent crime.
“If we don’t create opportunity in this city, this crime is not going away,” Lowery said. “Poverty and crime, regardless of your position on it, go hand in hand.”
The full annual report is available on the city of DeKalb’s website.