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updated: 6/3/2013 1:05 AM

New Buffalo Grove police chief relishes challenge

Top cop relishes bigger challenge in Buffalo Grove

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  • Steven Casstevens

      Steven Casstevens

 

When Steven Casstevens moves from his old position as chief of police in Cary to his new job as chief in Buffalo Grove, the size of the police force he leads and community he serves will more than double.

But Casstevens, who served 2 years as Cary's chief after a 30-year career with the Hoffman Estates Police Department, said he relishes the chance to take the helm in the larger suburb.

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"I have always thought a great deal of that (Buffalo Grove) department," said Casstevens, 54. "The department's always been very well respected. It has always been thought of as a very professional police department. I thought that would be a great opportunity for me."

One of the greatest benefits of the larger police force -- the Buffalo Grove department has a staff of 70 to Cary's 28 -- is the opportunity to establish programs and services that aren't necessarily available for smaller agencies, Casstevens said.

After starting his new job June 10, Casstevens plans to spend 60 to 90 days getting to know the agency and meet with everyone, including Deputy Chief Steve Husak, who acted as interim chief after the retirement of Chief Steve Balinski.

"One of the things that I did I thought was very beneficial in Cary -- and I plan on doing the same thing -- was I interviewed every single employee, both sworn and civilian," Casstevens said. "Closed doors, no holds barred. 'Tell me what you like. Tell me what you don't like. Tell me what we're doing you think we shouldn't be. Tell me what we're not doing you think we should be.' And just get some ideas from the employees on what they think about the agency.

"You can learn a lot that way."

Casstevens said he also is awaiting the results of a study by Alexander Weiss, a consultant evaluating the department's staffing and organization.

Like his predecessors in Buffalo Grove, Casstevens believes in the effectiveness of traffic enforcement. But rather than just traffic enforcement "for the sake of traffic enforcement," he sees it as a tool for fighting other crime.

"It's also the best way to catch bad guys," he said. "If your biggest problem is burglaries in your community, you typically don't see somebody walking down Route 72 with a flat-panel TV on their shoulder. They come and go in cars. And so, if you're going to have a good crime reduction program, you're going to do it typically through traffic stops."

In Cary, the biggest issue from a crime standpoint was auto burglary. In one nine-month period, 100 percent of the cars that were burglarized had been left unlocked, he noted. In response, Cary instituted a program called "Hide It -- Lock It -- or Lose It."

"We saw about a 50 percent reduction over 2012 compared to 2011 on burglary to autos. And we attribute the greatest percentage of that reduction to education of our residents in taking their valuables inside at night, locking their cars, securing their garages," Casstevens said.

Communication with residents is important, he believes, especially through technology.

"People want to get information through their police department's website or they want some kind of automated notification system," he said.

Casstevens praised Buffalo Grove for its community policing programs, such as the Citizens Police Academy, and efforts to educate the public about scams.

"Those programs are always important, and I plan on continuing and, if there is opportunity, even expanding some of those programs," he said. "(The citizen academy is) the best way to provide them with a unique insight into the day to day job of a police officer."

Casstevens grew up near Mendota, Ill., in a town called Triumph, wanting to work in law enforcement. While still in high school, he enlisted in the Army for the military police and later spent three years with the 101st Airborne Division.

"That was my start in law enforcement when I was 17 years old," he said.

After his stint with the military police, he worked for the Mendota and Peru police departments before joining the Hoffman Estates force.

An Elgin resident, Casstevens has two grown children, a 22-year-old daughter who recently finished college and a 20-year-old son who recently started his own aviation business. His wife, Patricia, works in Washington, D.C., -- commuting every week -- as director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Foundation.

Outside the job, he said he loves to golf and teach. He has been teaching in the School of Police Staff and Command at the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety.

He also serves as vice president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

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