Incidents of serious violent and property crime in Riverside fell overall by about 10 percent in 2014 compared to 2103, according to Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.
Weitzel earlier this week shared the results of the village’s Uniform Crime Report, which tracks eight specific types of offenses, with the Riverside Village Board. The report is compiled annually by every law enforcement agency in the state for the Illinois State Police, which turns the information over to the FBI to track national crime trends.
The Uniform Crime Report tracks murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, theft, vehicle theft and arson.
In small villages like Riverside, it’s a bit harder to identify trends from year to year. The total number of reportable offenses varies annually. Since 2004, the village has reported anywhere from 114 to 201 incidents each year, often with double-digit percentage increases or decreases.
“It’s more an issue of being a small community,” said Weitzel. “With a larger town, like a Naperville or an Aurora, you might be able to identify patterns where there are clear distributions over a period of years.”
In Riverside, the only trend that’s been consistent through the years is that property crimes — burglary and theft — typically drive crime numbers in the village.
In 2014, Riverside saw a drop in incidents in both of those categories. A total of 16 burglaries were reported in the village in 2014, compared to 33 in 2013 (a 51.1 percent drop). Likewise, thefts fell by 23.7 percent from 118 in 2013 to 90 in 2014.
“I’ve always believed in our community those kinds of crimes are all or nothing,” said Weitzel.
There are years where one or two burglary or theft crews will hit scores of unlocked vehicles or garages within a certain year. If Riverside police or a neighboring police department makes an arrest, often the thefts and burglaries abruptly stop.
“I’m always happy when the numbers go down, but I’m also realistic,” Weitzel said. “I can’t predict what’s going to happen in 2015 or 2016.”
There has not been a homicide reported in Riverside in more than a decade, a trend that continued in 2014. There were also no incidents of sexual assault, vehicle theft or arson reported in Riverside in 2014.
Riverside’s crime report notes two robberies last year — both of them connected to the robbery of a jewelry dealer in the driveway of an East Burlington Street home last August.
Three days later, police ended up arresting and charging two men with the robbery. They both posted bond, but one of the two is being held without bond at Cook County Jail after being arrested for allegedly robbing a woman in Chicago in November.
One area where Riverside saw a spike in incidents was for aggravated assault/battery. The 49 incidents reported by Riverside police in 2014 was the highest total since 2006, when police reported 57 incidents. In 2013, there were just 15 incidents, while in 2011 and 2012 Riverside reported just one incident each year.
But the reason for the wide disparities in aggravated assault/battery numbers through the years is due at least in part to changing rules regarding when such incidents must be reported.
Weitzel said domestic battery incidents were up “substantially” in 2014, but that the large increase is also due to a new federal requirement for law enforcement agencies to report any incident — whether or not an arrest was made — at local schools, public and private.
“That includes any incidents that take place on school grounds,” said Weitzel. “It could be at a sporting event or on a bus traveling to a sporting event. We’re obligated now to keep track of those.”
Riverside included at least one incident that didn’t involve an actual assault or battery within that category — an incident where a San Francisco man wearing a bulletproof vest walked onto the playground at St. Mary School, asking to tour the inside of building.
The man was later found to have entered a school and church in Brookfield, where he took photos. He also attempted to deliver letters to elected officials. Riverside charged him with disorderly conduct, to which he pleaded guilty and received probation.
In the future, said Weitzel, his department will be able to separate out school incidents to track those in the future.