Rolling Meadows police dog Scar is ready for his close-up
Everyone around the Rolling Meadows Police Department already knows Scar is a good boy.
Beginning Tuesday night, the rest of the country will find out just how good.
Scar, the department's 6-year-old Belgian Malinois police dog, and his partner, officer Chris Don, are competing on Season 2 of the A&E Network's "America's Top Dog." The reality show pits police, working and "under" dogs from across the country in obstacle course challenges and other tests of skill and athleticism to determine who's the best.
Scar and Don, who've been patrolling Rolling Meadows together for four years, will appear on Tuesday's premiere episode, which airs at 7 p.m.
"Overall it was an awesome experience," said Don, who flew out to California with Scar back in September for seven days of filming in canyons outside Los Angeles. "For (Scar), it was just another day at work. That's what he loves to do, and that's what we do in training all the time. But to share the experience with him, it was incredible."
The partners' road to L.A. began more than a year ago, when Don was watching Season 1 of "America's Top Dog." Among the competitors was Lake County sheriff's dog Dax.
"I thought, 'Scar can easily do all this stuff,'" Don said.
So, with his wife's encouragement and department's backing, Don applied to be on Season 2. After several rounds of interviews, the pair were on a plane to the West Coast.
Besides filming, the duo had a chance to take in the sights of LA. Scar had his first visit to the beach and the pair posed for a photo together beneath the Hollywood sign.
With the show's first episode approaching, excitement for Scar's star turn is building in the department and community.
"We've had a lot of residents coming up, telling me they're excited to watch it," said Don, a Mount Prospect native who's been with the department for eight years. "I'm just so happy to represent Rolling Meadows."
Don can't reveal the outcome of the competition -- you'll have to watch to find out how he and Scar fare -- but said there was nothing out there Scar couldn't handle.
"There were obstacles that we've never done before but he's more than capable of doing," he said. "And we just had fun with it. He's like a kid in the candy shop when he's out there on the course. He was a natural. Hopefully I was, too."
Less jail = less crime?
While "lock 'em up and throw away the key" might be a popular solution to rising crime rates nationally, could less incarceration be the real answer?
That's what's happening in Lake County, where efforts to reduce the number of people behind bars have coincided with drops in arrests and crime, officials say.
According to new reports from the JFA Institute and the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance, efforts to reduce the "harmful use" of jail in Lake County have occurred alongside an overall decline in crime rates, the county sheriff's office said this week.
"We are seeing more and more data which shows mass incarceration does not equate to having safer communities," Sheriff John D. Idleburg said. "My staff and I are working diligently to safely reduce our inmate population by providing exceptional programming and re-entry services, so inmates have every opportunity to be successful and supported upon their release from custody."
The two reports come from studies of participants in the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $252 million initiative funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Its mission is to reduce over-incarceration and eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Lake County joined the challenge in 2017 and so far has received about $1.4 million in grants to implement programs that reduce incarcerations.
According to the JFA Institute study, when Lake County responded to the pandemic last year by reducing its jail population by 27%, both violent and nonviolent crime decreased. The most serious offenses -- those reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program -- were down 14% from 2019 to 2020, study authors found.
The one exception was homicides, officials said, which spiked nationwide last year.
Help for crime victims
State officials announced a new and improved notification system Thursday to let victims of violent crime, their families and the public know where a perpetrator is and when that person might go free.
Illinois VINE (Victim Information and Notifications Everyday) will send automated notices by email, phone or text to those who register to track an offender's custody and court case status.
"Survivors of violent crimes deserve the peace of mind that comes with being alerted to a change in the custody or court status of the offender who perpetrated the crime," Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in Thursday's announcement. "Illinois VINE is a step toward peace of mind because it allows survivors and their families to receive free notifications and 24-hour access to the latest information about offenders' case status, and now people can register in one place."
Officials say registrations and searches are confidential. VINE also provides survivors and families with access to support services and advocacy organizations.
You can access Illinois VINE by calling (866) 566-8439 or visiting VINELink.com.
• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.