Crimes against persons rose 33% in the first nine months of this year and property crimes were up 29%
Interim Police Chief Richard Eddington, on his next-to-last-day on the job, told reporters there’s a lot of “angst in society” after the disruption of the pandemic that is leaving people short-tempered and making interpersonal conflicts more likely to escalate into violence.
But he added that severe short-staffing of the department is making it harder to engage in the proactive policing that can reduce crime.
The numbers shown here are based on monthly figures for 2021 and for 2022 through the end of September as shown on the department’s Crime Stats dashboard.
For both years the figures were compiled using the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s new National Incident-Based Reporting System.
That system changes the way crimes are reported so that when a crime incident has multiple victims, each victim is counted as a separate crime.
Under the previous Uniform Crime Reporting program only incidents were counted — so a multi-victim incident would only count as one crime.
The new system also adds more types of crime to the offenses that are counted in the key crime categories.
Those and other changes in the FBI reporting system tend to result in higher crime counts under the new system and make figures collected under the old system not directly comparable to the new ones.
But since the figures above were all compiled under the new system, they don’t suffer from those problems.
The FBI released annual crime reports for 2021 on Wednesday, and news reports noted major gaps in the numbers, because only 63% of the nations law enforcement agencies submitted data for the year — down from an 80% to 90% participation rate over the past two decades.
The FBI data for Evanston — using the old UCR crime categories — showed violent crime essentially unchanged from 2020, but a substantial uptick in property crimes in 2021.
The violent crime category that draws the most attention — homicides — rose to six in Evanston in 2021 — a level that hadn’t been seen since 2010.
So far this year the department says Evanston has suffered two homicides.
Eddington, and the department’s public information officer, Cmdr. Ryan Glew, said statewide changes in the pension system for police officers have made it much easier for officers to move from one department to another — and as a result, Glew said, a lot of officers are moving to departments located closer to where they live.
Eddington said there are “some scars” in the department from the defund the police campaign in 2020. He added that he hopes the city manager and city council are aware of the damage that occurred during that period and that they’ll be more attuned to the needs of the police department going forward.
He noted that Evanston has lost five officers to Arlington Heights — where the department is expanding in anticipation of the community becoming the new home of the Chicago Bears.
But he said Evanston is having success in recruiting officers from Chicago — because, unlike in Chicago, Evanston officers typically get their scheduled days off.
The department will continue to put new recruits without prior police experience through the police academy, Eddington said.
But the department is down more than two dozen officers now, and there are only four seats available to Evanston in January’s academy class.
It takes a year of academy and on-the-job training before a new officer can be fully functional on the street, the chief says.
So, he adds, lateral transfers from other departments will need to be the main strategy for rebuilding the department.