By Bob Uphues
The number of serious crimes reported in North Riverside last year fell by 5.6 percent – roughly in line with a drop in the number of thefts reported in the village during 2017.
That's not a big surprise as theft, which includes retail theft, drives crime numbers annually in North Riverside. With its large retail district drawing millions annually from Chicago and the suburbs, North Riverside sees more incidents of theft than its neighbors.
Last year, North Riverside police reported 439 thefts, down from 459 in 2016. For comparison, neighboring Riverside, which has almost 4,000 more residents but a small retail sales base, reported just 94 thefts in 2017.
Meanwhile, Brookfield, which has a population three times the size of North Riverside, has reported fewer than 200 thefts each year since 2014. Incidents of theft represent about 93 percent of all crime reported in North Riverside.
So, while on a per capita basis the official crime rate is higher in North Riverside than its neighbors, much of that crime is contained within the shopping district along the village's eastern border.
"Everybody knows we have a very big mall and we gets tons of visitors from the city [of Chicago] and other areas," said Police Chief Deborah Garcia. "Unfortunately, it raises the level of theft and retail theft."
Overall, thefts are way down from early in the 2000s when the village routinely reported between 700 and 800 thefts. That number began to fall sharply in 2008 after the village adopted a policy of issuing local ordinance citations to first time retail theft offenders who stole less than $150 in merchandise, instead of charging them criminally.
Theft is one of eight categories of major crime, as defined by the FBI which compiles its Uniform Crime Report annually based on information it gets from each state. Every year, all police agencies in Illinois supply the information to the state police, which passes it on to the FBI. The information is used to track crime trends nationwide.
In addition to theft, the Uniform Crime Report tracks murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson.
In terms of violent crime, North Riverside saw very little of it in 2017. Continuing a trend that had been the case for more than two decades, there were no homicides in North Riverside in 2017.
That changed in early 2018, with the fatal shooting of a Chicago woman in the parking lot of the North Riverside Park Mall. The man suspected of shooting the woman is being held at Cook County Jail, awaiting trial.
For the seventh straight year in 2017, there were no reports for criminal sexual assault. There were eight robberies reported in North Riverside, down slightly from the past two years, while aggravated assault/battery ticked up slightly.
Motor vehicle theft was down sharply in 2017 and has fallen steadily for the past two decades. For three years running from 2000 to 2002, the village reported 50 vehicle thefts annually. Last year, that number was down to just three.
"I think a lot of that is because newer cars are harder to steal," Garcia said.
The number of burglaries reported in 2017 was about on par with 2016, though the number of those incidents overall has been lower in recent years.
Part of that might be due, said Garcia, to a village law adopted a few years ago prohibiting non-residents from parking on village streets overnight.
"I think that's had an impact, because our officers know who's supposed to be parked here or not," Garcia said.
In February, North Riverside police rolled out an advisory door hanger program to better communicate with residents about crime prevention.
For example, a patrol officer might leave a door hanger on the front door of your home if a certain area is experiencing a rash of thefts or burglaries, if an officer notices a resident leaving valuables in a vehicle in plain view or if a vehicle is unlocked.
You might get a door hanger if your garage door is left open or if there is property left out in the open.
"The purpose of this program is to make our residents aware and assist us with cutting down crimes of opportunity," Garcia said.