RIVERSIDE – Letting potential criminals know that police officers are out in force is key to helping thwart future incidents, Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said.
The 2012 Riverside Police Department Annual Report issued last month showed a 9 percent decrease in index crimes overall. Incidents listed as index crimes are homicide, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
The biggest drop in index crimes in Riverside was in burglaries. There were 31 burglaries in 2011 and 19 in 2012, a drop of 38 percent.
The only increase in index crimes was with thefts, which jumped from 110 in 2011 to 116 in 2012, an increase of 5 percent.
But Weitzel warned that such percentages not put into proper context can be misleading.
“A town with low crime rates, as Riverside has, can show a significant drop in the percentages even if the change was small,” Weitzel said. “The more crime a town has, the lower the percentages are when changes occur. And the fewer crimes a town has, the higher the percentage in changes.”
Weitzel said maintaining a strong police presence on the streets has a big impact.
“Our overall crime is low, and traffic stops are a deterrent,” Weitzel said. “When I came in, we changed the squad cars to make them more visible. Can I say definitively that this has lowered crime? No. But I firmly believe this has been the case.”
Criminals driving through a community looking for opportunities likely become more reluctant if they see police squad cars out making stops in large numbers, Weitzel said. This is significant for a town like Riverside he said.
“Burglaries in Riverside can be a big issue; they certainly can affect property values,” Weitzel said. “When we interview criminals, many of them tell us they believe they can get more proceeds from a town like Riverside – like cash, jewelry and electronic goods – and can sell or pawn them quickly.”
Riverside police personnel have focused more on residential burglaries involving juveniles, Weitzel said. Criminals know juveniles are less likely than adults to be sent to prison for residential burglaries, so young people are used for this crimes more often, he said.
Michael Gorman, who recently completed his term as village president of Riverside, said members of the town’s police department understand the value of connecting with the community.
“This department is very well respected and held in high regard throughout the western suburban region,” Gorman said. “Our residents really appreciate what our officers do.”