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updated: 1/18/2013 5:49 AM

Serious crime in Elgin at 40-year low

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Crime in Elgin is at a 40-year low for serious crimes, according to 2012 crime data released Thursday by the Elgin Police Department.

Last year, there were only two homicides, compared to five in 2011, along with a 36 percent decrease in burglaries and a 24 percent decrease in rape and criminal sexual assault, Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said.

Violent crimes -- which include homicide, rape and criminal sexual assault, robbery, battery and assault -- were down almost 13 percent from 2011, and 30 percent from 2010. All the rapes and criminal sexual assaults committed last year involved perpetrators known to their victims, Swoboda said.

The department's focus last year on preventing burglaries paid off, because Elgin is at a 20-year low for residential and commercial burglaries throughout the city, he said. As part of that focus, for example, one primary investigator was assigned to burglaries.

This year, the department plans to focus on preventing theft and burglaries to vehicles, the two categories that had an increase last year.

Burglaries to vehicles increased by 3 percent last year. Police are planning more targeted neighborhood policing that will include alerting residents to burglaries reported in their neighborhood, Swoboda said.

Residents also must remember to lock their vehicles at all times, he said. In fact, he added, the department's unofficial mantra for residents is going to be, "If you like it, lock it.'"

This year, the department is debuting a new software system it recently purchased that uses crime data and an algorithm to pinpoint where crime is most likely to occur, Swoboda said.

"The best policing does not just rely on technology or on good, old-fashioned police work. It's combining the two," he said.

Theft increased by 13 percent in 2012, but most of that is retail theft at stores along Randall Road, Swoboda said. The increase could be due to heightened awareness from businesses, who call police when they have spotted a suspect, Swoboda said.

A total of 2,276 serious crimes were committed in Elgin in 2012, down from 2,372 in 2011 and from a five-year high of 2,845 in 2007.

In 1970 -- when Elgin's population was only 55,000, exactly half of today's count -- 2,659 serious crimes were committed. The worst year in the last four decades was 1989, when there were 4,905 serious crimes, data shows.

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