Violent, property crimes hit low

Scott Gordon

Although the Evanston Campus experienced a spike in robberies and attacks in 2003, Evanston saw the lowest number of violent and property crimes last year since 1970, according to statistics Evanston Police Department released this week.

The department’s 2003 Crime Index — a total of murders, sexual assaults, robberies, batteries, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts and arson crimes — is about 18.6 percent lower than the 2002 total. Although EPD’s index includes attempted crimes, it does not include crimes handled by University Police.

Property crimes — burglary, theft, auto theft and arson — are all at their lowest in the city since 1970.

Chief Frank Kaminski of EPD said he was pleased with the numbers because “in the last six years, (the Crime Index) has dropped by almost half.”

The index shows the largest drop in crime in Evanston since 1998, according to statistics from EPD.

Evanston’s Crime Index last peaked in 1997 at 7,669, then dropped by more than 2,000 points the following year. Since then it has been decreasing steadily, except for a slight increase in 2000.

Theft — the largest component of the Crime Index — decreased more dramatically than any other crime, dropping from 2,954 to 2,464. Also, there were 256 fewer burglaries in 2003 than in the previous year and 48 fewer motor vehicle thefts.

Kaminski said the department cannot solely claim credit for the decrease — emphasizing that city government officials, community groups and Evanston residents also deserve praise.

“I really think that a lot of segments of the community have all contributed to those numbers,” he said. “The police don’t do this alone.”

He also said the department has been successful in dealing with community members to solve problems.

“We’re flexible enough to do a variety of innovative things and still use traditional methods,” Kaminski said.

Michele Hays, a resident of southeast Evanston and leader of the Brummel Park Neighbors group, said she and the group have a “terrific relationship” with EPD.

“They’re always keeping us informed about what’s happening in the area,” said Hays, adding that the department allows Brummel Park Neighbors to hold meetings at the EPD outpost at 633 Howard St.

Deputy Chief Michael Perry of EPD also said community policing strategies and residents’ cooperation have helped cause the reduction in crime. More citizens are reporting crimes and attending EPD’s annual Citizen Police Academy, he said.

Only two of the categories in the index saw an increase, although by nominal amounts — criminal sexual assaults rose from nine to 10 and robberies increased from 132 to 134.

But both of these crimes occurred at below-average rates last year, according to an EPD press release.

Although the number of murders fell from two to one and has fluctuated between one and three since 1994, the city has seen a more significant long-term drop in the murder rate.

In the 1970s an annual average of about five murders was reported in Evanston, the press release stated, but that average dropped to two in the 1990s.

Alexander Weiss, director of NU’s Center for Public Safety, calls the change a big difference.

“I think that Evanston has done a good job of doing very smart policing,” he said.

But Hays said it is also important for residents to continue to help police reduce crime.

“It’s the citizens who can make a difference,” she said. “Citizens have to make the complaints.”