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updated: 1/30/2012 6:59 PM

Most Elgin crime numbers drop, but not burglaries

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In the midst of a promising 2011 crime report is the fact that burglaries in Elgin have skyrocketed.

While violent crime as a whole was down 17 percent, burglaries -- one category of violent crime -- were up 31 percent, according to officials.

Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said he has launched a departmentwide focus on combating that increase.

The new plan for the police department includes extra vigilance from the patrol division, more education efforts to help residents spot suspicious signs of burglaries, increased coordination with the schools to find connections between burglaries and absent students, and extra surveillance in problem areas.

Swoboda said a majority of the new initiatives cannot be released to the public -- to ensure better results -- but he said the plan includes the entire police department.

"I'm confident that by the end of this first quarter we'll already see a reduction in burglaries," Swoboda said.

Total crime in Elgin was down 16 percent from 2010, with serious crime -- a count of all burglaries, robberies, homicides and assaults -- at its lowest point in 40 years.

Swoboda said it is often a small number of people committing the overwhelming majority of burglaries. In turn, each case solved is expected to multiply the efforts to hold people accountable for the crimes.

A steady stream of burglary charges and individuals coming through bond court shows the efforts already under way.

Residents make up an important segment of prevention and resolution of burglaries. Swoboda said people should be sure to keep an eye out for suspicious people or vehicles in their neighborhoods, writing down license plate numbers or calling police just in case.

"The community is never bothering us by calling," Swoboda said. "It's better to be safe than sorry."

One common strategy of late is burglars ring doorbells and, if no one answers, they break into the home, Swoboda said. Residents who are home to answer the door in these cases should call police. Swoboda said that simple act could solve a burglary nearby or prevent one from happening.

The police department monitors crime statistics on a weekly and quarterly basis. In 2010 robberies were up and the focus for the start of 2011. The shift in focus is just part of the department responding to new data.

"Overall, though crime statistics are positive, here's one we need to work on," Swoboda said. "With crime stats, I don't know that I'll ever be 'satisfied.'"

• Daily Herald staff writer Elena Ferrarin contributed to this report.

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