Elgin violent crime up for first half of 2016; drop expected for second half
It was a tale of three cities when it came to the largest suburbs and violent crime in the first half of 2016.
According to statistics released by the FBI this week, the number of violent offenses between January and June 2016 in Aurora dipped slightly compared to the same time frame in 2015 -- from 308 to 306. Naperville saw an increase but a relatively minor one, from 32 to 37.
And then there's Elgin, which saw 124 violent offenses reported in the first half of the year, a whopping 28 percent more than in 2015. That's a larger percentage point hike than in Chicago, which had a 23 percent increase over the same period.
While it wasn't all bad news for Elgin -- cases of both murder and rape declined -- the city saw big spikes in the number of robberies, 20 to 39, and aggravated assaults, 53 to 69.
Elgin is examining the numbers to ensure everything was categorized correctly, Deputy Chief Bill Wolf said, adding that the department will release its annual full-year review next week.
He expects it to show an overall 1 percent or 2 percent decrease in crimes reported to the FBI.
"I think you will see the (FBI report) increase is not that significant," Wolf said. "Our second half was down."
And the number of violent crimes is still nowhere near what it was in 1989, when the town hit 4,905 crimes, according to a 2013 report. By 2015, that dropped to 1,854.
Nationwide, violent crime rose about 5.3 percent in the first six months of last year compared to 2015. The preliminary report included breakdowns by city only for communities of 100,000 or more residents. Figures for smaller towns will come when the FBI issues its full 2016 report in the fall.
Buyer, seller beware
While a drop in violent crime is always good news, there were some worrisome numbers for Aurora in the FBI report. The number of robberies in the city grew from 45 in the first half of 2015 to 59 in the first six months of 2016.
Authorities blame much of the increase on the use of social media and online sites to buy and sell goods with strangers.
"The increase in robberies in the first half of last year was due largely to a spike we experienced with people being robbed after posting items for sale on social media sites such as OfferUp," said city spokesman Dan Ferrelli.
Social media sales might be easier, but they are riskier than shopping in a store, Ferrelli said. Sellers and buyers can remain anonymous, and easily hide their true intention to hold you up and take your money or goods.
Reducing prison populations
Shorter sentences for drug offenses and some felonies. More probation and electronic monitoring. Additional rehabilitation programs, especially in high-need communities. No mandatory prison terms based on where a crime took place.
These are among the 27 recommendations issued this month by Gov. Bruce Rauner's Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. Rauner empaneled the commission in February 2015 to examine how the state could reduce its prison population -- which at the time sat at nearly 49,000 inmates -- by 25 percent within 10 years.
"Prison will certainly continue to play an important role in protecting public safety," commission Chairman Rodger A. Heaton of downstate Rochester wrote in a letter to Rauner that accompanied the report. "However, these recommended reforms, if implemented full and executed effectively, will help ensure that the community-based resources are available to provide effective alternatives to incarceration; that sentences are imposed at levels appropriate for both the offense and the offender; and that offenders receive the treatment and programming they need, both in prison and afterward, to promote their successful re-entry to society."
Rauner's office said he will sign legislation addressing some of the recommendations and work with the General Assembly to enact others.
Find the full report at www.icjia.org/cjreform2015/pdf/CJSR_Final_Report_Dec_2016.pdf.
Father sues over shooting
The father of a 38-year-old man shot to death last year during a confrontation with Zion police is suing the city and two of its officers in federal court, claiming his son was not a threat to anyone and the fatal shooting was not lawfully justified.
The suit, filed by Carl Hollstein on behalf of the estate of Charles J. Hollstein, also accuses officers of conspiring to prepare false reports to give incomplete and misleading versions of the events to their superiors and the public.
Charles Hollstein was killed Jan. 6, 2016, by officers investigating reports of a man taking photographs at local schools, authorities said. According to police, Hollstein was shot in the back during a struggle that followed a foot chase.
At the time, Hollstein was carrying a pellet gun and wearing a vest filled with homemade metal inserts that police called body armor, authorities said.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim ultimately determined that officers were justified in using deadly force.
Zion police officials told us this week that department policy prevents them from commenting on pending litigation.
The suit is the second federal case filed against Zion in the last nine months stemming from a fatal officer-involved shooting. In April, the family of 17-year-old Justus Howell sued the city, alleging authorities falsely claimed the teen was armed with a gun to justify his April 4, 2015, killing.
As with the Hollstein case, the Howell shooting also was deemed justified by Nerheim.
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