Park Ridge crime rate drops again, police say
Crime trends in Park Ridge
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:13AM
PARK RIDGE — Calls for police services are on the rise, but the overall crime rate in Park Ridge continued its decline last year, statistics released by the Police Department show.
Police Chief Frank Kaminski said the city’s overall index crime rate for 2012 dropped 4 percent from the previous year and 28 percent over the last five years.
“Whether crime is up or down really depends on how well the police and the community work together with a partnership and collaboration,” Kaminski, who joined the department in 2009, said. “I’m hoping we’re moving in a good direction with that.”
Crimes that saw a noticeable decline in 2012 involved juvenile runaways, thefts, burglaries, and simple assaults and batteries.
Runaways declined 95 percent — from 272 in 2011 to just 13 in 2012 — due to the closure of the Park Ridge Youth Campus, Kaminski acknowledged. The group home had, for many years, generated a large number of runaway reports to police, though it normally housed no greater than 34 adolescent residents at any given time.
The police department also responded to a number of battery incidents at the campus involving residents. Overall, simple assault and battery dropped from 109 incidents in 2011 to 72 last year.
Within the last five years, theft reports — which account for the greatest number of crimes in Park Ridge — have been on the decline, dropping from 508 in 2008 to 324 in 2012.
Vehicle thefts, which are categorized separately, have remained relatively consistent, with the exception of 2011 when there was a low of six reported.
Burglaries were also down 14.5 percent last year, with a total of 118 reported. The poor economic climate had been blamed for the rising burglary rate in prior years.
Kaminski credits the drop in burglaries in 2012 on efforts by the department to educate the public about how to reduce their risks of being victims, as well as police working with other jurisdictions to identify and make burglary arrests.
Last year Park Ridge detectives helped dismantle a burglary ring spanning numerous suburbs and officers seized over 3,000 stolen items, ranging from watches and jewelry to sports memorabilia and handguns.
This year, the police department will join a burglary subcommittee of the North Regional Major Crimes Task Force, which will allow officers from municipalities to better share information and leads on burglary cases, Kaminski said.
“Burglars don’t just work in one town; they work regionally,” he explained.
Cost to join the group is estimated at $1,500 to $1,600 per year, Kaminski said.
Police are hoping to teach citizens how to be safer at a March 13 community forum, where convicted burglars will talk to residents about what they looked for when scoping out homes to burglarize.
Kaminski acknowledged that burglaries are the city’s “biggest challenge,” particularly when citizens do not properly secure their homes and vehicles.
Theft from cars left unlocked overnight on streets and driveways has long been a problem in Park Ridge, and police have struggled to convince citizens to lock their doors.
“If we get people to secure their property more, we will have even more decreases,” Kaminski said.
Violent crimes, as is the norm, remained low in 2012, though the city did experience a murder in February 2012 — for which an arrest was made — and robberies increased from seven the previous year to 12. There were nine reports of aggravated battery and assault compared to 14 in 2011.
The five-year trend shows domestic violence on the rise with 76 reports filed in 2008 and 93 in 2012. Police also responded to 22 percent more criminal damage to property incidents, largely due to a 50 percent spike in graffiti.
Overall arrests were down 12 percent in 2012, while the number of calls for police service increased 5.6 percent. Kaminski said part of the reason the call volume is up is due to self-initiated activities of the department, like walking neighborhood beats. It can also be seen as positive that citizens are more willing to call police when they have concerns because it leads to better interaction with officers, the police chief said.
“We encourage them to call about anything suspicious,” Kaminski said. “This is the direction you want to see.”