Elgin serious crime at all-time low since 1972
Serious crime was down in Elgin last year, with a 17% overall decrease including in homicides (there was one), batteries, assaults, criminal sexual assaults, thefts, arson, motor vehicle thefts and motor vehicle burglaries.
Police data released Friday shows there were 1,665 serious crimes last year in the city of about 112,000 residents, compared with a high of 4,905 in 1989, when the population was about half. Crime is at an all-time low since police started keeping data in 1972.
Serious crime in Elgin has been decreasing steadily since 2007, with slight increases only in 2014 and 2018.
Last year, the only two serious crime categories that showed increases were robberies, which went up from 57 to 68 last year -- seven of them had an online component -- and burglaries, which went up from 172 to 192.
Elgin's single homicide in 2019 was the fatal shooting of Tyler Bey in August, for which two men were charged and are awaiting trial. There were three homicides in 2018 and two each in 2017 and 2016.
Nine people suffered gunshot wounds and there were 31 incidents of shots fired with no victims, a 9% decrease in total compared to 2018. This year, there have been three reports of shots fired, including two on New Year's Day.
Police Chief Ana Lalley said reducing gunfire incidents is going to be a focus of the department this year. "I'm extremely proud of the work the police department does. Also, I'm extremely proud of the engagement with the community -- that's where the magic happens."
Still, Lalley said, police work is never done and the department remains committed to improving wherever possible.
Violent crime fell sharply across the country in the last 25 years as per data from the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, according to an October report from the Pew Report Center.
In Elgin, less serious crime -- including drug-related offenses, simple batteries and assaults, disorderly conduct, deception, kidnapping and more -- also declined last year, with an overall decrease of 6%.
Traffic crashes were down 7% to 4,361, with six fatalities compared to nine in 2018.
Elgin police responded to 186,347 calls last year, a 3% overall decrease compared to 2018, and 54,001 calls to 911, a 1% increase.
There were 2,970 arrests, a 10% decrease compared to 2018. The number of times officers pointed a handgun steadily decreased from 25 times in 2016 to five in 2019. Officers' use of Taser declined from 21 times in 2016 to 12 times in 2019. However, residents' complaints increased from 12 in 2018 to 20 in 2019.
Lalley said others areas of focus in 2020 will be promoting fitness and mental health programs for officers, completing a comprehensive review of department policies, and preparing for employee turnover, because a significant number of employees is reaching retirement status in the next few years. Twelve officers have retired in the last 18 months. The latest one is Cmdr. Rick Ciganek, who starts Monday as chief deputy sheriff of Winnebago County.
Lalley said she's especially proud of two initiatives implemented last year. One is a collaborative crisis services unit, made of two officers and three-part time mental health professionals who do follow-up visits for individuals who can benefit from mental or behavior health services. The other is an emergency services detail, made of two SWAT officers who can respond without delay -- in regular uniforms but with specialized gear -- to calls that involve emotionally distressed people.
Elgin is the only department in Illinois with an emergency services detail, an idea that came from a visit to New York police in 2018, Police Deputy Chief Colin Fleury said.
It's all part of officers' drive to continually improve and "never get stuck in a traditional mindset," Lalley said. "That's a credit to the police department and the people that work here."