Wilmette: Crimes of opportunity big in 2011
Updated: August 22, 2012 3:38AM
Wilmette continues to be a community relatively free of violent crime – but it also continues to be a draw for petty criminals who want to steal from too easily accessible autos and homes, as the village’s 2011 crime statistics reveal.
Residents can help fight that trend, simply by remembering to lock their car doors every time they get out, and to keep doors and windows locked when they leave home, Wilmette Police Chief Brian King said last week.
“I kind of look at it as an easy civic duty everyone can fulfill. Keeping your vehicle locked and your home secured are ways to make not only your things safe, they make your neighborhood less attractive to criminals. By doing that, you’re keeping your neighborhood safer as well,” he said.
A review of burglaries and thefts over the past year shows that residential burglaries increased slightly between 2010 and 2011. At 58, they were higher than the 5-year average of just over 51, and just above the 2010 figure of 50.
But auto burglaries roughly doubled in number during the same period; police recorded 109, far above the 2010 figure of 56, and higher than the village’s five-year average of 83.
The vast majority of these cases involved unlocked vehicles parked on public streets, in driveways and alleys during the overnight hours. Only a small percentage of the auto burglaries involved forced entry, King said.
Burglaries from automobiles are crimes of opportunity, King said, and criminals can make note of areas where those opportunities are rife. In both 2011 and 2010, police arrested people who returned to Wilmette on multiple occasions and were ultimately charged with many burglaries.
The same pattern often holds true with residential burglaries, he said, with yearly fluctuations attributable to very specific situations: “We do get those repeat customers. Sometimes an individual or individuals that are out on parole or probation return to areas they were active in before.”
Still, non-residential and commercial burglaries dropped in 2011, he said. Commercial burglaries dropped from 11 to 5 in 2011, and that number was considerably lower than the department’s five-year commercial burglary average of 19. Other non-residential burglaries decreased from 27 to 17. Again, both 2010 and 2011 were below the five-year average of 32.
Thefts, too, dropped slightly, from 230 in 2010 to 212 last year. (Thefts are defined as crimes in which the criminal does not have to enter private property.) In this category, too, police saw a “return customer” pattern, re-arresting one individual this January for bicycle theft after he had previously been arrested in June of 2011 for a spate of bicycle thefts.
The department hopes to remind residents of the best way to deter property crime, especially vehicle-related crimes, through its “Free Stuff” campaign poster that can be displayed throughout the village, urging people to lock their vehicles.
Wilmette police did not have to deal with much violent crime in 2011. There were no homicides, compared to one murder and two reckless homicides the year before. Only one criminal sexual assault was recorded, and the numbers for aggravated batteries and assaults were similarly low.
“We’ve always had a low incidence of violence, which is a good thing,” King said.