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Crime & Courts

DeKalb, Sycamore police chiefs optimistic about preliminary 2018 crime statistics

While DeKalb and Sycamore police department officials won’t release final 2018 crime numbers for at least a couple of months, the data looks promising.

Gene Lowery, police chief in DeKalb, and Jim Winters, police chief in Sycamore, both said violent crimes on the whole are likely to be down.

Lowery, however, gave a word of warning.

“Usually our first blush of information is better than it scrubs out to be,” he said.

Lowery said he’s confident the crimes in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood were down last year, especially when compared with the rash of reports of shots fired in fall 2017.

Lowery said both he and Northern Illinois University Police Chief Tom Phillips had heard from residents and students wondering if the downturn in safety bulletins posted in 2018 meant the departments were hiding crime reports.

“The fact is, crime was down, and that’s a sign of good police work and things the city has put in place working,” Lowery said.

He attributes the expected decline to different city initiatives, Safe Streets among them, but said a major factor has been officers working the streets and reporting crimes first-hand.

“The nature of the business causes you to be reactive, but we’ve tried to take a proactive policing strategy,” Lowery said, adding that 2018 was the second straight year his department saw an increase in officer-initiated reports.

“That means boots on the ground doing the job, and being proactive in doing the right thing,” he said.

Lowery said the effectiveness of his officers often hinges on property managers’ willingness to let officers walk hallways, and that his department has gotten cooperation from most managers.

On the whole, weapons offenses are down and drug arrests are up, but Lowery said he continues to see a discouraging trend in domestic battery cases. He did not to give specific numbers, as local agencies must first submit those numbers to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting division.

Similarly, Winters said he’s not prepared to release any specific data, but that it could be finalized by March. He said on the whole, aggravated batteries, sexual assaults and other assaults are down. He did, however, downplay 2018 as a small sample size.

“If we get another downward trend, that would be great obviously,” he said. “But we’ll always evaluate what we’re doing, and see what is working and what doesn’t work.”

He said DeKalb County’s two biggest cities reflect a nationwide downturn in crime.

Lowery said he’s not sure whether data will be shared with the DeKalb City Council in late March or early April, but that he would be working with newly appointed City Manager Bill Nicklas and other city officials to determine when he’ll give his official report.

“It’s nice having a confident leader,” Lowery said. “Bill Nicklas’ understanding of government, and having a feel for the community is tremendously important.”

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