By Bob Uphues
The number of serious crimes reported in Riverside fell by 8.4 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year, Police Chief Thomas Weitzel reported on March 4.
Weitzel presented the village's Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which is compiled annually by every law enforcement agency for the Illinois State Police, to the village board. With the decrease in 2012, Riverside has seen the number of serious crimes dip for the third straight year.
The UCR does not track all criminal activity in the village. Rather, the report focuses on eight categories of violent and property crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
"It's not everything, for sure, but an 8.4 percent drop is significant in the sense that it's going down," said Weitzel. "It is a good gauge."
With 141 crimes reported in 2012, Riverside has seen the number of incidents fall almost 30 percent since 2009, when Riverside reported 201 incidents in its UCR. The largest number of crimes reported in Riverside since 2000 was 270 in 2003.
However, the village reported aggravated assault/battery differently at that time, including all incidents of domestic battery. They no longer report all domestic batteries in that category, which lists just one incident in each of the past two years. In 2003, the village reported 77 aggravated assault/battery incidents.
Riverside reported zero murders, robberies or arson incidents in 2012. There was one criminal sexual assault report and one aggravated assault/battery along with three motor vehicle thefts.
As usual, the types of crimes that drive the Riverside UCR are property crimes — principally theft and burglary. Of the 141 total crimes reported, 136 of them were theft and burglary incidents.
And while thefts increased slightly in 2012, by 5.4 percent, burglaries dropped by 35.4 percent.
Part of the decrease in burglaries might be attributable, in part, to heightened awareness by residents. According to Weitzel, while burglaries are down, the number of calls to the 911 center reporting suspicious activity or suspicious vehicles is up 22 percent year over year.
"That type of reporting is coming directly from residents," said Weitzel. "They are much more aware."
Residents are routinely calling police to report suspicious door-to-door solicitors and suspicious vehicles, in particular. Sometimes the solicitors do turn out to be legitimate, said Weitzel. Those people are directed to register with the village. All others are told to leave town.
"There have been several cases over the last year where we've checked out people who were wanted on warrants or had alcohol or cannabis on them," said Weitzel. "Those people we're getting off the streets and out of the village."
While it is not part of the UCR, the number of drunken-driving arrests increased for the third straight year. Riverside police made 124 drunken-driving arrests in 2012, compared to 112 in 2011.
The village's record for DUI arrests in a year is 140, a mark reached in 2005. The number of DUI arrests fell from 2006 to 2009, a period where police staffing was an issue. In 2009, the department logged 59 drunken-driving arrests.
Between 2001 and the end of 2012, according to Weitzel, Riverside police arrested 1,167 drunk drivers — an average of 97.25 per year.