Violent crime is up both in Illinois and across the nation, according to the most recent statistics from the FBI.
But after crunching the data for 80 communities in the Daily Herald's coverage area, we found that the suburbs are bucking the trend.
According to the FBI's figures, violent crime in the suburbs fell 3.3 percent between 2015 and 2016, including a 33 percent decline in murders, from 21 in 2015 to 14 in 2016. The FBI defines violent crime as murder, rape, robbery and assault. The numbers are from the agency's annual report on crimes reported to police.
In all, there were 2,492 violent crimes reported in our communities in 2016, down from 2,576 a year earlier.
Property crimes -- burglary, theft, vehicle theft and arson -- saw a similar decline, from 29,306 in 2015 to 28,375 last year, a 3.2 percent fall.
For an explanation, we went to former longtime Naperville police chief David Dial, now the director of the criminal justice program at Aurora University.
Dial noted that for the most part crime rates have been falling since the 1990s. He attributed that to better information sharing among police departments, better relationships between police and communities, and an aging population.
Nationally, violent crime rose 4.1 percent in 2016. That includes an 8.1 percent increase in murders. In Illinois, violent crime was up 13 percent, in no small measure because of a 41 percent spike in murders -- almost entirely attributable to last year's wave of gun violence in Chicago.
Aurora, the state's second-largest city, recorded seven murders, the most of any suburb, but that's a far cry from the 26 apiece it had in 1996 and 1997, when the town had at least 50,000 fewer residents.
Too see how your town fared in 2016, visit ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/cius-2016.
When the FBI released its preliminary stats back in January, covering the first six months of 2016, we wrote about how violent crime in Elgin had spiked 28 percent compared with the first half of 2015.
Elgin police assured us that when the full year's numbers came out, they would paint a much more favorable picture of the city.
They were right.
Despite the uptick in the first half of the year, violent crime in Elgin fell about 10 percent from 2015 to 2016. The 236 violent crimes reported is the second-fewest of any year this decade, according to FBI figures.
There is good news about property crimes as well. They dropped about 16 percent, from 1,488 in 2015 to 1,279 last year.
See something, say something
A person who heeded gut instinct and called 911 played a huge part in the Downers Grove Police Department's capture last week of a man accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl in 2012.
That and the quick work of the DuPage County Forensic Science Center.
The June 2012 assault took place in a restroom at Whitlock Park. Police obtained DNA evidence but didn't have enough information to make an arrest.
Fast forward to 2017.
On Aug. 16, an alert person called 911 to report a suspicious person at the village's Hummer Park. The man was walking back and forth past the restrooms but didn't have a child with him. Police questioned him, got his name and began surveillance.
One week later, officers spotted him heading into the women's restroom at the park, authorities said. Officers followed and saw him on his hands and knees, looking into a stall a 7-year-old girl was using, according to police. They arrested him on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting a peace officer.
And, with 2012 case in mind, they took a DNA sample. Last week, police got their answer: The DNA was consistent with that of the 2012 attacker's, authorities say.
Now Matthew Schuten, 24, of the 4000 block of Roslyn Road in Downers Grove, is being held on $1 million bail at the DuPage County jail on charges of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and attempted predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. Besides the 2012 case, he's accused of watching a girl use the restroom at Whitlock Park in 2015, authorities say.
Downers Grove police said it was "a tremendous help" for the DuPage crime lab to get the DNA testing done in less than a month.
The child victims in Downers Grove did not know their attackers. But that is rare, according to the Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public website. It says only about 10 percent of child sexual abuse perpetrators are strangers. About 30 percent are relatives. The rest are acquaintances, such as family friends and baby sitters.
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