Violent crime is rare in Riverside. That’s especially true when it comes to homicide, where until last weekend the most recent incidents occurred in 1992 and 1988.
So police should expect that people who live in the community might be more than a little interested in what transpired and, if as police claim, there’s no threat to the community, why they think that.
For more than a decade, Riverside residents were kept informed about crime in the village because Riverside had a police chief who believed residents were entitled to basic information when violent incidents took place.
Whether that made elected or appointed officials skittish we can’t say. If it did, former Police Chief Thomas Weitzel certainly didn’t let it dissuade him from informing the public about incidents that were going to, one way or another, ignite community conversations on social media and in other settings. His philosophy was to let the public know the facts. It served Riverside well.
Weitzel went so far as to create a police department Twitter feed, which actively updated followers on everything from traffic crashes to crime in nearby communities to community event announcements. There hasn’t been a tweet from that account since May 20, the day Weitzel retired.
Naturally, we expect police to be vigilant about not revealing details that could jeopardize a sensitive investigation and no one is asking them to do so.
But enormous public resources are devoted to public safety in Riverside, as in all towns, and the public is entitled to information surrounding serious criminal activity — information beyond opaque press releases simply acknowledging something happened.
Basic factual elements such as, in last weekend’s double murder, when police believe the incident took place, how the shooter gained entry, why the incident initially came in as a possible burglary, whether any residents in the building heard gunshots, and whether police had identified a suspect or have anyone in custody for questioning are basic questions all citizens have.
Answering those simple questions jeopardizes nothing, and police ought to do so.
Leveraging the levy
We’ll say it again: All North Riverside elected officials, now and in the future, need to drop the political calculation that keeping local property taxes at ridiculously low levels is in their best political interest.
Despite having a regional shopping mall, two car dealerships and several other major retail shopping centers, the village collects a grand total of less than $600,000 annually in property taxes to help fund an operating budget of close to $20 million.
Trustees have signaled that they’ll ask the county to increase property taxes by 3 percent and that the strategy will be to do the same in coming years. That’s merely responsible government. North Riverside will continue to struggle to balance its budgets and asking those who benefit from village services to pay their fair share is necessary because that $4 million annual pension contribution won’t pay for itself.