The number of serious crimes in the first half of 2012 dropped 10 percent compared to the first half of 2011, according to a report issued in July by Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.
Moreover, Riverside reported no felony-level violent crime in the village through June 2012. The offenses tracked in the report are those used to compile the village’s Uniform Crime Report, which is submitted to, and tracked by, the Illinois State Police each year. Serious offenses include murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated battery/assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
The report does not include drug crimes, misdemeanor assault and battery cases (including most domestic battery incidents) or arrests for driving under the influence. The report also doesn’t address crimes involving juveniles.
That makes deciphering the meaning of the Uniform Crime Report somewhat tricky, especially in a small village like Riverside, where serious crime is traditionally very low in any given year.
“Crime is down, but it’s really just a reporting issue,” said Weitzel, who noted that the department is answering more calls for service, although many of them don’t rise to the level of criminal conduct.
In the village’s six-month report, crimes were reported in just two categories, burglary and theft. Property crimes generally, and theft in particular, are the categories that drive crime numbers in Riverside.
Riverside police reported 60 thefts through June 2012, compared to 58 in the first six months in 2011. Meanwhile, burglaries – which plagued Riverside early in 2011 – were down year over year from 16 to 10.
But while burglaries fell in 2012 to 10 thus far, that number is still higher than in 2010, when six burglaries were reported in the first six months.
While no aggravated assault/battery incidents were reported in the UCR, the number of misdemeanor battery complaints – almost all of them domestic battery incidents – remained flat, year over year.
Riverside police, through the first six months of 2011 and the first six months of 2012, reported 40 complaints of battery. Prior to 2010, Riverside included domestic batteries in its UCR but no longer does since reporting requirements have changed.
Apart from the Uniform Crime Report statistics, Weitzel also released information related to police operations as a whole. It paints a complex picture, where calls for service are up but overall arrests are down. At the same time, arrests of juveniles are up.
In the first six months of 2012, calls for service – i.e. a call resulting in a police officer issuing a written report – were up 5 percent compared to the same period in 2011.
At the same time, calls to the village’s 911 center were down sharply. During the first six months of 2011, the center received 2,062 calls. For the same time period in 2012, that number fell by 24.4 percent to 1,531.
Arrests are down 12 percent year over year, according to the report, with 219 in the first six months of 2012. Through the first six months of 2011, Riverside police made 249 arrests.
Through June 2012, Riverside police made 30 juvenile arrests, compared to 25 during the same time period in 2011.
Drug-related arrests are also up year over year, from four to eight, according to Weitzel. And, he said, heroin is becoming more prevalent, particularly in cases involving the gang and drug task force, WEDGE, to which Riverside belongs.
“It’s become the drug of choice,” said Weitzel. “We still see cannabis, but heroin has almost exclusively taken over. It seems to be the real choice nowadays and [offenders] seem to be younger and younger kids.”
Also down year over year are arrests for driving under the influence and the number of parking tickets written by police in Riverside. DUI arrests are down 17.3 percent in the first six months of 2012, while parking tickets are down by 31.3 percent.
Police did write 20 percent more tickets for moving violations in the first six months of 2012 compared to the previous year. However, that increase hasn’t resulted in revenue from fines. Despite the notable increase in tickets written, revenue is down by 4.4 percent, said Weitzel. The reason for that is judges often waive the municipality’s fine but still assess court costs.