LAKEVIEW — Crime dropped across the board in the 44th Ward in 2014, but an increase in sexual assaults has led police to move to work with local bars on addressing the problem.
According to statistics released by Ald. Tom Tunney’s office, the overall number of reported crimes dropped by 19 percent, from 5,001 in 2013 to 4,047 last year.
"I am proud of the 44th Ward and the direction in which we are headed," Tunney said in a newsletter sent last week. "We would not be where we are today without the hard work of our 19th District police officers and our community."
The drop included a 31 percent decrease in robberies and a more than 17 percent drop in assaults/batteries and thefts.
However, there were 32 reported sexual assaults in 2014, up from 22 in 2013. There were 37 in 2012.
While Tunney's office said the increase in sex assaults was "unfortunate," one of his staffers said Wednesday the attacks "tend be singular incidents and do not appear to involve repeat offenders.”
Erin Duffy, Tunney's director of community outreach, also said Wednesday that “all of these cases have been thoroughly investigated by the police.”
In his newsletter, Tunney added that most victims in these cases knew their offender, but he also warned residents to “be aware of your surroundings, careful of who you are with, and do not accept drinks from people you do not know or trust.”
The incidents last year include a woman who was sexually assaulted after being pushed into a men’s bathroom stall at The Irish Oak.
To combat sexual assaults, Town Hall District police officers will work with entertainment venues to educate their employees, officials said. Officers also will post fliers with safety tips in bars and educate residents via community meetings throughout February, which has been dubbed "Sexual Assault Awareness Month" in the Town Hall District.
“Training folks at bars is a tactic that’s been used in other parts of the country," said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director of Rape Victim Advocates. "Staff may see or be aware of behavior that appears to be unsafe, and they’re in a position to be helpful.”
Majmudar said sexual assault is an underreported crime, but her organization has noticed a recent citywide trend.
“In terms of survivors that we serve, we’ve seen a steady increase in that number over the past several years,” Majmudar said.
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