A spike in crime in December almost wiped out Evanston’s progress in reducing crime last year.

At the end of November, crime was down 2.3 percent, but in final statistics released today by the police department, the decline for the full year amounted to just 0.3 percent.

The total number of major crime incidents in Evanston tracked by the FBI declined in 2011 to 2,324 from 2,331 in 2010.

There were decreases in three of the four violent crime categories tracked:

  • Murders declined from 5 to 3, a 40 percent drop.
  • Aggravated battery and assaults dropped from 126 to 96, a 24 percent reduction.
  • Rape cases dropped from 8 to 5, a 37 percent decline.
  • But robberies rose from 73 to 76, a 4 percent increase.

Thefts, which make up more than half the serious crimes reported in the city, rose by 4 percent from 1607 to 1673. And Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott noted that 163 of those thefts involved items being stolen from unlocked cars.

If those could be eliminated by people choosing to lock their vehicles, it would cut the city’s total crime rate by 7 percent.

For other property crime categories:

  • Burglaries declined from 432 to 400, a 7 percent drop.
  • Auto thefts dropped from 66 to 53, a 20 percent decline.
  • But arson cases rose from 14 to 18, a 29 percent increase.

Police also reported that they completed two major undercover narcotics operations in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department last year that were aimed at reducing violent crime.

Operation Bloodhound targeted the “Belizean Bloods” Street Gang and Operation Replay focused on narcotics sales by street and mid-level dealers in Evanston and surrounding communities. Combined, those operations led to 54 arrests.

Parrott says the undercover operations disrupted the criminal organizations that in addition to selling selling illegal drugs used firearms to conduct their day to day criminal enterprises.

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Evanston crime rate drops again in 2011

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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