Naperville still ‘safest city,’ despite small increase in crime
BY BILL BIRD firstname.lastname@example.org January 14, 2013 2:28PM
Naperville Police Chief is looking to increase the presence of Naperville police on the streets of the city. Dan Cassidy~Sun-Times Media
Comparisons of major crimes in the city in the first half of 2011 and in the first half of 2012.
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:15AM
Newly-released FBI statistics show violent crime is up slightly in Naperville. But all things considered, Mayor A. George Pradel couldn’t be happier.
Naperville remains, by far, the safest city of its size in Illinois, a fact that has an old retired lawman like Pradel feeling both grateful and proud.
“Coming out of the (police) department like I did, I’ve always prided us on having the lowest crime rate, and we still hold that,” Pradel said Tuesday. The city’s overall crime rate “is the lowest that we’ve been in 25 years, since 1987, and I’m really happy for that.”
“We’re still the safest for our size ... and we owe that to our residents, our police department, our fire department, the Park District and the schools,” Pradel said. “We really need to have everybody working together.”
An FBI report on violent crime, released Monday, provided information on cities with populations of 100,000 and more. In addition to Naperville, the Illinois cities that were studied included Aurora, Chicago, Elgin, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield.
FBI statisticians compared the first six months of 2011 with the first six months of 2012 for each city. The “violent crime” umbrella covered murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crime, burglary, larceny/theft, vehicular theft and arson also were studied.
The total number of violent crimes in Naperville rose for the reporting period to 60, compared to 54 a year before.
Still, tallies were much higher in other cities. There were 256 violent crimes for the new reporting period for Aurora, albeit down from 280 a year before; 145 for Elgin, up from the 2011 total of 126; and 284 in Joliet, up from 266 the year before.
Numbers for the period studied show one murder in Naperville, compared to two during the same time period a year before; four rapes, compared to two the year before; nine robberies, down from last year’s tally of 11; 46 aggravated assaults, up from 39; 959 property crimes, down from 996; 114 burglaries, down from 158; 825 thefts, up from 818; and 11 arsons, up from three for the year before. The tally of stolen vehicles during both periods was 20.
Fire Chief Mark J. Puknaitis on Tuesday commented on the rise in deliberately-set fires, saying “of the 11 arson cases the FBI has identified, only one involved a building, and that was caused by rags burning outside the structure.”
“All the others were very minor in nature, involving small areas such as portable restrooms, parks and playground equipment, park benches and picnic tables,” Puknaitis said via e-mail.
“Only two of the 11 arsons were investigated by the fire department. The remainder were police-related incidents. The building fire arsons only accounted for two incidents, which is no change from the prior year.”
Police Chief Robert W. Marshall noted the statistics “are preliminary, and with just six months of data, only provide a ‘snapshot’ into crime in Naperville. Only through careful analysis into the cause and effect relationship can we create valid assessments of crime.”
“That being said ... for a city of over 100,000 population, Naperville is still one of the safest cities in America,” Marshall wrote in an e-mail. “Our police department takes a great deal of pride in this accomplishment, and could not achieve this distinction without the help of our residents and community partners.”
Marshall said property crimes - specifically, burglary - “showed a significant decrease, which in part we attribute to the arrest of a group of seven to nine individuals known as the ‘felony lane gang,’ who were very active in committing (vehicular) burglaries.”
Violent crime “showed a slight increase,” which Marshall said he attributed “to a series of crimes, primarily assaults, in a specific area of the community” where police detected street gang activity.
“We identified patterns and trends, then implemented a strategic approach, which included an adjustment in patrol/investigative tactics and the involvement of property management and the homeowner group. We effectively utilized a problem-orientated policing model to reduce these crimes in this specific area,” Marshall said.
The FBI report is based on information gleaned from more than 13,300 law enforcement agencies. Each agency submitted three to six comparable months of data in the first six months of 2011 and 2012.
Statistics showed the number of violent crimes reported nationally in the first six months of 2012 increased 1.9 percent compared to the first six months of 2011. The number of property crimes increased 1.5 percent for the same time frame.
Murder and rape showed nationwide decreases when data from the first six months of 2012 were compared with data from the first six months of 2011. The number of murders declined 1.7 percent, with rape decreasing 1.4 percent. However, robbery was up by 2 percent and aggravated assault by 2.3 percent.
All three categories of property crime — burglary, larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft — showed increases from January to June 2012 when compared with data for the same months of 2011. Larceny/theft offenses increased 1.9 percent. There was a 1.7 percent increase in the number of motor vehicle thefts and a 0.1 percent increase in burglary.
The number of arsons nationally increased 3.2 percent in the first six months of 2012 when compared with figures from the first six months of 2011.
Three of four U.S. regions reported increases in arson: 11 percent in the Midwest, 6.4 percent in the western states, and 5.7 percent in the northeast.