Property crime still big in Wilmette
Updated: February 22, 2013 3:17PM
WILMETTE — When Cook County Court Judge Garritt Howard sentenced Chicagoan Arnold Rogers on Jan. 30 to 20 years in prison for his Oct. 31, 2012 burglary of two Wilmette townhouses, police were able to shut the books on one of more than three-dozen residential burglary cases last year.
The Jan. 7 sentencing of Creed V. McGee, also from Chicago, to eight years in prison, similarly ended a 2011 case in which police caught McGee after a resident of the home he was burglarizing hid in a closet and called 911.
Those two arrests, and others like them, could well have affected the number of burglary cases his department had to investigate last year, Wilmette Police Chief Brian King said this month.
King made his comment after the department released figures from its 2012 uniform crime report.
As they have in most years, the numbers of violent crimes remained low in Wilmette. The village recorded one criminal sexual assault, five robberies, three aggravated batteries, one aggravated assault and no murders.
But property crimes were another thing entirely. Wilmette experienced a one-year jump in overnight burglaries to garages and autos, especially on the east side of the village, King said last week.
Criminals broke in to vehicles 141 times last year, compared to 109 in 2011, a hike of more than 22 percent. Non-residential burglaries – which includes detached garages as well as churches, schools, storage facilities, public buildings and ships – leaped from 17 in 2011 to 55 last year. The one drop was in commercial burglaries, from five to three between 2011 and 2012.
A review of all non-vehicle burglaries over the last half-decade showed that those to businesses, homes and garages dropped to a low of 80 in 2011, but rebounded last year. Burglaries to autos dipped slightly over the same period but gradually returned to 2008 levels by 2012.
Still, the 38 residential burglaries investigated in 2012 represented a six-year low, and a drop of almost 33 percent from the 58 investigated in 2011. Thefts – incidents in which items were stolen by people who were legally on the scene, such as retail thefts – also trended lower over five years.
Although burglars, including Rogers, often broke windows or doorsills to get at the goods, in many cases they simply opened unsecured cars, entered wide-open garages or walked into unlocked homes.
“This is a constant challenge,” King said. “We ask citizens to remember that criminals often return to areas where they know doors are apt to be open, so when make sure your doors are locked and your cars are locked, you’re not only protecting yourself, you’re making your neighborhood safer for everyone.”
After police launched a public education program in August, the rate of such crimes slowed. Successful arrests also likely helped cut 2012’s reported incidents, King said when the department released the latest crime index, in part because criminals who made repeated visits to Wilmette were taken off the street, King said.
Investigators made more than 13 arrests in garage and auto burglary cases as well: “This year we had a very prevalent pattern in a very specific area, and it allowed us to put resources in the area,” King said.