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Surge In Jeff Park Traffic Stops Driving Drop In Crime, Commander Says

By Alex Nitkin | July 11, 2017 6:02am | Updated on July 14, 2017 11:35am
 Jefferson Park District Cmdr. Bill Looney surveys tactical officers during a roll call at the district police station.
Jefferson Park District Cmdr. Bill Looney surveys tactical officers during a roll call at the district police station.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

CHICAGO — The total number of crimes reported in the Jefferson Park Police District between Jan. 1 and June 30 fell by more than 8 percent compared to the first six months of 2016, driven largely by a drop in burglaries, robberies and drug arrests, according to city data.

So far this year, the district has recorded its lowest number of burglaries in at least a decade, with 241 reported through June 30. That's 50 fewer than the same period last year, and nearly 200 fewer than the same stretch in 2010.

Further data link the drop to the efforts of police in the Jefferson Park District, according to Cmdr. Bill Looney. The district ranks 12th among the city's 22 districts for reported burglaries, but its officers racked up the second-most burglary arrests of any district in the city, Looney said.

"That's a combination of officers taking more action, and the community getting better about calling in suspicious people," Looney told DNAinfo. "Before we were just getting calls after the fact, but now we're hearing a lot more from people about cars or people in their neighborhood that they don't recognize — so that's stopping them before they happen."

Source: City of Chicago

Looney also credited the drop to a near-doubling of traffic stops in the district compared to last year, with Northwest Side cops pulling over almost 10,000 drivers through July 2, he said.

"We've really evolved into a new strategy of addressing burglaries and thefts through traffic missions, to see if we can stop people coming back from committing crimes," Looney said. "Or if they're on their way to commit a crime, maybe if we have their license information, that will make them think twice about it."

Robberies also dropped more than 25 percent from their peak of 101 in the first half of 2016, according to city data. But this year's 74 robberies still outpace the 46 and 60 reported in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Reported drug crimes have also plummeted in the district, falling from 300 between January and June 2015 to 191 during the same period in 2016, and just 90 through June 30 this year. That trend follows this year's implementation of a state law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Assaults have defied the trend, however, steadily creeping upward since 2014. The district saw 286 assaults in the first half of 2017, compared to 248 during the same period three years ago.

And the district saw 11 shooting incidents in the first half of 2017, the most of any year since 2012, according to DNAinfo records.

The Jefferson Park district covers more ground than any other district in the city, stretching from the Six Corners Shopping District in Portage Park to O'Hare Airport. A report published in April pronounced it the city's most lightly-staffed district relative to its geographic area and population.

But the district has seen modest reinforcements since last summer, when its ranks dipped to a low point of 188 officers — plus sergeants and lieutenants — prompting area aldermen to demand more resources from Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

Officers and supervisors alike are already feeling the benefits of the padded numbers, including seven additional field training officers, Looney said.

"Now, whenever new recruits come on, a lot more of them are being sent our way," the commander said. The total number of personnel on hand "fluctuates almost daily, but I'd say we're in pretty good shape."