By Bob Uphues
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel earlier this month said that the number of serious crimes reported in the village rose in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. However, that increase, about 4.2 percent, represented just three more incidents than the first half of 2012.
Weitzel presented crime stats to the village board at its Aug. 1 meeting. The figures represented crimes tracked by the FBI annually and include the most serious violent and property crimes, including murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. The FBI and state police use the information to compile what's called the Uniform Crime Report for all police agencies.
True to form, the types of crime that drive Riverside's report are property crimes, particularly theft and burglary. In the first half of 2013, burglaries kept pace with 2012, with 10 reported each year. Theft reports were down by nearly 22 percent year over year, however, with 47 reported in the first six months of 2013 versus 60 in 2012.
Final totals may not turn out so favorable with respect to thefts and burglaries when they are released early next year. Riverside in July saw a spike in those incidents, including a rash of vehicle break-ins and several residential burglaries.
More than 40 incidents through July were cleared, following the recent arrest of two men who were apprehended by Riverside police on the same night. Both reportedly admitted targeting Riverside in recent months. One of the two was particularly active during July.
"You will see the theft and burglary numbers go up," said Weitzel.
As far as violent offenses go, 2013 has been a mixed bag. Once again there were no homicides reported, but there was one criminal sexual assault and one robbery reported to police during the first half of the year.
But Weitzel said the sexual assault report, which allegedly involved a 4-year-old child, was closed after being deemed not credible by the Proviso Children's Advocacy Center and a police investigation. Weitzel also said he was "convinced" that the one robbery report was false and police were seeking to charge the person who made it with filing a false police report.
On the other hand, the number of aggravated assault/battery incidents spiked during the first half of 2013. In all of 2012 and in all of 2011, Riverside police reported just one such incident each. But during the first six months of 2013, Riverside police have recorded nine such offenses — more than the 12-month totals in all of the past four years.
Weitzel said six of the incidents were domestic battery cases and three were for simple battery. One of the incidents took place at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
The one constant in the aggravated assault/battery cases, Weitzel said, is the involvement of either alcohol or drugs. Alcohol fuels most of the domestic incidents, said Weitzel.
Also spiking in the first half of 2013, compared to 2012, was motor vehicle theft, with four reported in the first six months of this year compared to zero in 2012. Two of the incidents involved the same vehicle on the same day. In all of 2012, three vehicles were reported stolen in Riverside, which also reported one instance of arson during the first half of 2013 after no reports during any of the previous six years.
The 2013 case involved a Chicago woman who reportedly set a fire inside a Harlem Avenue apartment in April after she became angry with her husband for allegedly smoking all of the marijuana they had while she was asleep.
Linda B. Lopez was charged with aggravated arson, a Class X felony. She remains in Cook County Jail awaiting trial.
Weitzel also noted that overall calls for police service were down by almost 10 percent, year over year, including a 24 percent decrease in 911 calls compared to the first six months of 2012.
While the number of parking tickets written was up by 10 percent, the number of moving violation tickets was down by 31 percent and DUI arrests were down by 23 percent, year over year.
Weitzel stated that part of the reason for fewer DUI and traffic tickets was that the department has been shorthanded since the departure of two police officers, former Deputy Chief John Krull, who retired to become police chief of Olympia Fields, and a patrolman who resigned.