For the fourth straight year, Hanover Park crime statistics fell to a historic low -- a major selling point for a blue-collar community working to bring commercial developers to town.
The police department released figures today showing a 20 percent decrease in the number of major crimes logged last year.
Total FBI Part 1 crimes: 384 in 2013; 480 in 2012
Murder: 0 in 2013; 0 in 2012
Criminal Sexual Assault: 5 in 2013; 4 in 2012
Robbery: 4 in 2013; 13 in 2012
Aggravated assault/battery: 29 in 2013; 28 in 2012
Burglary: 69 in 2013; 64 in 2012
Theft: 265 in 2013; 356 in 2012
Motor vehicle theft: 13 in 2013; 14 in 2012
Arson: 0 in 2013; 1 in 2012
Source: Hanover Park Police Department
Since the early 1970s, police are required to track serious offenses and report the so-called "Part I" crimes to the FBI.
Last year, there were 384 of those crimes in Hanover Park, a record low since the department started keeping tabs and a drop of nearly 100 offenses from 2012. The village also saw a dramatic decline in the number of robberies -- by almost 70 percent.
Officials credited community policing and an embrace of social media that opened up new avenues for residents to send tips to officers.
"Our commitment to working with the community to reduce crime seems to be paying off," Police Chief David Webb said.
The latest tally helps attract new residents and new business, officials say.
"I'm really excited about our future," Mayor Rodney Craig said. "I think we've turned a corner."
The figures come as the village searches for a buyer for the Hanover Square shopping center and developers for vacant land north of Lake Street.
"It does directly work toward the image the village puts forward," Community and Economic Development Director Shubhra Govind said. "A lower crime rate is always something that presents a more positive image, which in turn helps business recruitment and retention."
Meanwhile, the department continues to launch initiatives that have cops working with residents to spot problems. In December, the police station began holding classes that landlords must complete to secure rental licenses.
During the training, police encourage landlords to conduct background checks on new tenants and give pointers on how to make apartment complexes safer. Under an ordinance approved last April, landlords also must put wording into leases that gives them the power to evict tenants involved in criminal activity.
The department plans to run the eight-hour courses four times a month. Officials acknowledge it could take a few years to see the results, but they aim to stamp out drugs and gangs in rental properties.
Hanover Park had one gang-related shooting reported in 2011 and none in the last two years.
"We are reactive, but we're trying to be more proactive," Deputy Chief Tom Cortese said.
Forging ties with the Hispanic community remains a focus for officers. The department received a $10,000 state grant to train parishioners from the village's largest Spanish-speaking church to become volunteers for CERT, or Community Emergency Response Teams. By spring, St. Ansgar Roman Catholic Church congregants will be able to better assist police in putting on big events.
"It helps build trust," Cortese said. "They're getting to see what we do."
The reductions in crime are part of a new chapter for a department that overhauled its patrol beats and hired more officers in the aftermath of four murders and a wave of violent crime in spring 2009.
"That's in our rear view now," Webb said.