Most crime is down during COVID-19 pandemic, but there's reason for concern

  • The Schaumburg Police Department and their colleagues across the suburbs have seen calls for service drop, in some places substantially, since the state's stay-at-home order went into effect last month. The one troubling exception is for cases involving domestic violence, police say.

    The Schaumburg Police Department and their colleagues across the suburbs have seen calls for service drop, in some places substantially, since the state's stay-at-home order went into effect last month. The one troubling exception is for cases involving domestic violence, police say. Courtesy of the Village of Schaumburg

 
Updated 4/3/2020 1:37 PM

If there's an upside to being locked down -- besides slowing the spread of the coronavirus -- it's this: Several law enforcement agencies told us this week that they're receiving fewer reports of crime since the state's stay-at-home order began almost two weeks ago.

In Elgin, for example, calls for police service fell 7% between 5 p.m. March 21, when the order went into effect, and March 30.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Jail bookings are down as well. The city jail processed 46 bookings between March 21 and 30, compared to 61 over the same dates in 2019, a 25% decline, police spokeswoman Kristie Hilton told us.

Schaumburg and Naperville police are seeing similar declines.

Since the stay-at-home order, calls for service have dropped 29% in Schaumburg, Sgt. Karen McCartney said.

In Naperville, police this month have responded to 58 crime reports and documented 36 cases, declines of 29% and 28%, respectively, from the 82 crime reports and documented 50 cases in March 2019.

And with so many working from home, or not at all, police are issuing fewer traffic tickets, Cmdr. Mike Son said.

The slowdown has extended to suburban prosecutors' offices.

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"We have seen a decline in the overall number of cases brought to us for prosecution since the stay-at-home order went into effect," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim told us. "Calls for service to the police are down overall, which results in less arrests, and therefore less prosecutions."

Not all good news

The one exception, as many feared, has been domestic violence.

In Elgin, domestic battery calls are up 47% compared with the same March 21-30 time frame in 2019.

"Our Social Services Unit continues to contact every crime victim in an effort to connect them with useful resources and assistance," Hilton said. "We understand this is a stressful time for families and we are exploring additional initiatives to help address the increase in domestic issues we are beginning to see."

The same is true in Schaumburg and Lake County.

"Cases involving domestic violence are the exception," Nerheim said. "Those cases continue to come in and make up the majority of cases brought to us for prosecution."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's because of this that many suburban domestic violence shelters remain open and the organizations that run them continue to offer services, despite the risks posed by COVID-19.

"We want people to know we will do everything in our power to get people out of domestic violence situations, regardless of what's going on out there," Rebecca Darr, CEO of Palatine-based WINGS, told us two days before the stay-at-home order began.

No time to rest

While crime reports might be down, police say there's no shortage of need for their services. Departments are finding alternative ways to stay in touch with their communities, such as virtual neighborhood meetings in Elgin and Vernon Hills police reading nightly bedtime stories to kids online.

While most court cases have been postponed, state's attorney's offices continue to handle bond hearings, emergency proceedings and juvenile detention hearings.

"Our Civil Division has been available to assist our clients in the various county departments with their various legal questions related to the current situation," Nerheim added.

"In addition, our cyber lab remains operational and has been assisting local law enforcement. The Lake County Children's Advocacy Center also remains operational and has been assisting law enforcement with cases involving the physical or sexual abuse of children."

As Lombard Police Chief Roy Newton told us, "We're not sitting around the break room eating pizza."

"People look to us more in times of uncertainty. They want to know we are still at the ready," he said.

"It is important for you to be out there, to be seen."

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and you can show your support by wearing blue.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and you can show your support by wearing blue. - Courtesy of the Lake County State's Attorney's Office
Wear blue

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and given that rise in domestic violence, it's more important than ever to spread awareness and support efforts to protect kids.

A simple way to do that today is to put on your favorite navy, periwinkle or teal shirt for National Go Blue Day.

Another popular way to show your support is by planting or displaying pinwheels in a prominent area to pique the public's curiosity.

The pinwheel is a symbol of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

You can order pinwheels through Prevent Child Abuse Illinois at www.preventchildabuseillinois.org/merchandise.

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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