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Chief: Crime rose in first half of 2006

If many Evanston residents are greatly concerned about crime, you wouldn't have known it from the turnout at Monday's City Council crime workshop.

Only about a dozen citizens and another dozen city employees were in the audience to hear Dennis Nilsson, the city's interim police chief, report that index crime in the Evanston rose 7 percent during the first six months of this year compared to the same period a year ago.

But that rate was down substantially from the crime rate during the second half of 2005.

Chief Nilsson said among the eight major crimes tracked by the FBI crime index the big increases during the first half of the year were seen in robberies — up 56 percent and burglaries — up 65 percent.

He neglected to mention that Evanston has been murder-free during the first 11 months of 2006. The city typically has had two or three murders per year.

The city's crime rate was at its lowest level in 35 years in 2005.

The chief said that typically 97 percent of all crimes are committed by three percent of the population and that in Evanston most of our criminals are homegrown.

Among adults arrested for crimes in Evanston during the first half of the year 56 percent live in Evanston, 27 percent live in Chicago and 17 percent live in other communities.

Among juveniles arrested, 73 percent live in Evanston, 20 percent live in Chicago and 7 percent live in other towns.

He also said that most people convicted of committing crimes in Evanston who serve jail time eventually return to the city.

The police force has 162 sworn officers and 62 full-time civilian employees.

Chief Nilsson said he needs improved crime analysis software to better be able to track crime trends on a daily basis and deploy resources to respond to it. The department is currently three months behind in posting monthly crime summaries to the city web site.

He also urged the council to hire additional officers for a tactical team so that fewer officers would have to be pulled off their regular assignments for special crime-fighting efforts.

The aldermen scheduled another workshop to discuss crime issues for 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 27.

City Manager Julia Carroll said she hoped to invite representatives from the schools, churches and non-profit organizations to attend that meeting.

But, noting that the tactical team proposal — for eight officers and two supervisors — could cost $1 million a year, she and several aldermen at Monday's session voiced doubts that the city could afford to fund that program given other budgetary pressures.

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