Major crime dropped again in Naperville, bringing it to the lowest point in more than two decades, according to preliminary statistics from the Naperville Police Department.
Police Chief Bob Marshall attributed the declines to staffing changes, community cooperation and increasing prevention efforts.
"Any time you're involved in crime prevention efforts it's just not the police it's police in cooperation with the community working together to eliminate crime," he said.
The 2013 crime statistics provided by the police department are still considered preliminary as open cases could still be reclassified to a different type of crime. They currently show at least a 9.6 percent drop in major crime in 2013 compared to 2012. With 1,973 crimes, the are lower than any other year dating at least back to 1987.
Crimes against people in 2013 included no murders, four criminal sexual assaults, 21 robberies and 88 aggravated assaults. Aggravated assaults, which rose 3.5 percent, was the only category to increase. Overall, the crimes against people dropped at least a 7.4 percent over 2012, although that figure could be as high as 8.9 percent due to a discrepancy in the figures provided.
Property crimes in 2013 were down 9.8 percent over the previous year with 223 burglaries, 1,601 thefts, 36 motor vehicle thefts and no arsons.
During a roughly six-week period at the end of the summer, the city saw a rash of burglaries, but the year-end total still was down overall. During the spike, the department increased patrols and asked residents to report suspicious incidents. Police ultimately identified at least three separate groups tied to the home burglaries and made several arrests, according to Marshall.
Looking at crime across all categories, changes in staffing may have contributed to some of the crime declines, Marshall said. Among the changes he made was replacing sworn officers with civilians in several positions like evidence technicians and the front desk of the department so that the officers would be available for patrol.
Extra staffing has been a key part of the strategy to combat alcohol-fueled crime in the downtown and will continue to be this year as two new officers are added to the beat this summer.
"The analogy I use is sometimes you bring the outfield in, a baseball analogy, so we've had to do that," Marshall said. "We've had to redeploy officers from adjacent beats into the downtown and with our additional staffing in the downtown we've been able to get, we think that's going to self-correct itself this summer."
The department has touted an 11 percent reduction in five major crime categories in the downtown -- criminal damage, disorderly conduct, fights in progress, theft and juvenile complaints -- between January and October 2013 compared to the same time period in 2012. Full-year comparisons were not immediately available.
The department also has been working closely with downtown business owners to make improvements and are discussing several possible changes this year including cover charges to reduce bar hopping, enhanced training for security staff and staggered closing times.
"Our research has determined the majority of issues we see is when everybody is out on the streets right at bar closing is when we have the conflicts, the fights. So we're looking at options to maybe reduce the volume of people that are on the streets during closing times," Marshall said.
The department also has increased its use of technology to catch criminals by piloting the use of two license plate readers, which allow officers to patrol retail areas and save license plate information in a database that can later be checked if a crime occurs.
Police patrol cars also are being equipped with video cameras, a process that will be complete by March. Marshall said such technology should come in handy during traffic stops, especially for DUI.
Decreasing heroin use in the community remains a top priority this year, Marshall said, and the department will continue to work with community groups on education and prevention efforts. It also is working with the Naperville Fire Department to provide drop-off locations for prescription medicine.
"People who we've talked to talk about their own addictions, and their addiction starts through prescription drugs and then it moves to a harder drug such as cocaine or heroin," Marshall said.
Another drug, medical marijuana, also will pose new challenges for police this year now that it is legal in Illinois. Marshall said he has concerns people with prescriptions may try to sell some of it, creating a "secondary market." Officers are receiving training on the medical marijuana law as well as on a new law allowing people to carry concealed weapons.
He also hopes to improve officer training this year with the completion of a firing range and the creation of a defensive tactics facility.