For the first time since 2000, crime fell in Riverside according to information released by the village’s police department last week.

Overall, the number of reportable crimes in 2004?”the ones mandated to be reported to the state police each year?”fell 37 percent from 2003.

In 2004, police in Riverside reported 169 offenses in eight categories, including murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

“One of the things we stress is that mediocrity is not acceptable,” said Police Chief Eugene Karczewski. “We’ve established a high level of productivity and esprit de corps is high.”

The report does not include arrests and offenses such as drug-related arrests and driving under the influence.

That number is the lowest figure reported by Riverside police since 2001. Conversely, 2003’s total of 270 reported crimes was the highest number reported since 1996.

In 2004, crime was down significantly in aggravated assault/battery, burglary and theft. Aggravated assaults, which includes domestic battery, dropped 71 percent from 77 in 2003 to 22 in 2004. Karczewski said the decline in those offenses can be traced to the police department’s hard line against offenders in domestic battery cases.

“The domestic violence program we have is working,” Karczewski said. “We have an aggressive policy of mandatory arrests [of people suspected of battering or assaulting family members]. If the officer sees a mark of violence on a victim, the officer signs the complaint in lieu of the victim.”

Anyone arrested for a domestic violence offense is held overnight without bond and must appear before a judge. As a result, Karczewski said, Riverside is seeing fewer repeat offenders.

“We get it into the court system, which can give the batterers and their victims the tools they need to stop it,” Karczewski said.

Thefts dropped from 161 in 2003 to 121 in 2004 (a 24-percent decrease), while burglaries fell from 25 to 13 (48-percent decrease). Robberies dropped from 1 to 0.

Karczewski credited at least part of the decline in those crimes, which he termed “crimes of opportunity” to an increased police presence in the village. Prior to 2003, the police force was smaller. The 19-person force now consists of 12 patrol officers and four sergeants, in addition to a commander, assistant chief and chief.

“I think [the decline] is from high visibility,” Karczewski said. “Most burglaries are daytime crimes, and if they see squads, they’re not ripping. I also think the socioeconomic climate has gotten better, and when the economy is going you see less property crimes.

“But I think the biggest thing is visibility,” he said.

Some categories did see an increase in 2004, including criminal sexual assault, which went up from 0 in 2003 to 3 in 2004; motor vehicle theft, which increased from 6 to 9; and arson which went up from 0 to 1. There have been no murders in the village for many years.

While reportable crimes were down, Riverside police saw an increase in total calls for service. In 2004, the police received 18,208 calls for police response, an increase of 5.6 percent over 2003.

The Riverside Police Department reported that its dispatchers received over 2,000 calls per month for police assistance.

“They aren’t all crime calls, but they’re pretty busy up there,” Karczewski said. “There are more calls for service because so many social programs that used to be there aren’t there anymore. We’re here 24/7, and when something goes wrong people call the police.”