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posted: 9/4/2014 1:01 AM

Editorial: Task forces play key role in fighting suburban crime

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We like to recognize and celebrate cooperation among communities that helps address citizens' needs more effectively and more efficiently than communities can address them on their own. Crime fighting, as demonstrated by the Kane County Major Crimes Task Force and highlighted by staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy this week, is an area where such cooperation is almost commonplace.

Not that it's needed all the time, but it has become such a successful model that calling in an elite joint investigation team is all but routine whenever a given suburban town is hit by a serious crime. The approaches may vary slightly. Kane, Lake and DuPage counties all have independent teams; a Major Case Assistance Team, or MCAT, operates involving most Northwest suburban police forces. But the missions are essentially the same -- pool resources that no single community could afford or justify by itself and provide a level of investigative skill equivalent to that in a large city where police see violent crime or drug and gang activity every day.

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In the most-recent Kane County case, the task force was able to assemble a dozen specially trained investigators and crime scene technicians who began chasing down slim leads to find out who stabbed an 85-year-old East Dundee woman found dead in her home July 18. After nearly a month and an estimated 900 hours of studying financial and telephone records and pursuing other leads, the investigation took authorities to Texas, where they staked out the home where the woman's grandson was staying and eventually arrested him when he came outdoors to get his mail.

East Dundee's entire police force counts just 12 full-time and seven part-time officers. The village hasn't had a murder to investigate in 21 years.

Elsewhere this summer, various suburbs have had to call on investigative teams for help solving violent crimes. The Lake County group was involved in the investigation that led to the arrest of Demetries Thorpe, of Zion, who was sentenced to prison this week in the death of a 5-year-old boy whose body was never found. The DuPage County team helped track down a suspect in the killing of a Bensenville convenience store clerk in July. In June, Authorities called in the Major Case Assistance Team when the body of a 1-month old girl was found in a Prospect Heights condo.

And circumstances don't have to involve direct violence or murder. Lake County announced in April it would form a special task force to investigate gangs and drugs, and similar cooperation further south last April involving Cook and DuPage county departments led to a roundup that helped get heroin and heroin sellers off the streets.

Fortunately, heinous crime is rare in most suburbs, but in a region where millions of people live, deadly violence can occur at any time, and drugs, as we well know, are a pernicious, constantly growing threat. The cooperation of communities through such major crimes units is an important component of the region's public safety network.

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