Evanston Deputy Police Chief Aretha Barnes told residents at a mayor’s town hall meeting Thursday that major crimes in Evanston have declined 26 percent so far this year, compared to the same period last year.
The overall decline in the eight crime categories that local police report to the FBI is primarily a result of reductions in robberies, aggravated battery and assault, theft and auto theft.
The city has had two murders so far this year and one criminal sexual assault — compared to none in either of those categories during the same period last year.
For 2015 as a whole, the same eight categories of crime were down 5.1 percent from the year before.
Detective Bureau Cmdr. Ryan Glew said a warrant has been issued for the arrest of a suspect in the year’s first homicide — who is believed to have fled the area — and the U.S. Marshall’s office is offering a $2,500 reward for his capture.
Glew said detectives are actively investigating the year’s second homicide, and “I feel confident it will come to a good conclusion.”
Only about 30 people turned out for the town hall meeting in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center, which Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said was the smallest crowd she’d ever seen at such a session.
In response to a question from Harley Clarke activist Linda Damashek, the mayor said funding a new or renovated Robert Crown Center was the city’s top recreation priority and any significant spending on the lakefront mansion would have to wait.
“A phenomenal number of people use Robert Crown,” the mayor said, “and I think it would be a tragedy is children no longer had the opportunity to use” its basketball court, ice rink and other facilities.
She said she’d never seen a needs assessment for a recreation department that prioritized a mansion on the lake.
“It would be nice to have, but if you want me to pledge millions to it, I don’t see that as as great a need as the Crown Center,” the mayor added.
Noting the city’s heavy pension debt and the budget stalemate in Springfield, she said the city has to manage its spending carefully.
“Whenever I talk to Gov. Rauner,” the mayor said, “He always says, ‘Well, you could go bankrupt.'”
But then, she added, the state would appoint someone to run the city — the path that led Flint to its disastrous water crisis.
In a response to a question about the Canal Shores Golf Course, the mayor said neighbors need to realize that the golf course as it exists now is not self-sustaining, so it needs to be redesigned in an effort to generate more revenue.
Everyone in the community will have input, Tisdahl said, “but at the end of the day the community needs to understand that if we’re going to have a golf course, it needs to change.”