Round Lake Park, population 7,000, is the safest town in the state – or so says Safewise, a company that installs security systems.
When we posted this story on Facebook, one commenter wrote, "Sounds like the crime stats may be skewed a bit. Very hard to believe."
That was the reaction I got elsewhere when I told people about the study. One man at a local office who lives in another town didn't want his name to appear in the paper. When asked, though, he said he didn't believe Safewise's study. A drive through the town, he said, would prove his point.
To be sure, Round Lake Park is not the wealthiest town in the state – in fact, very much the opposite. Second on Safewise's list, North Shore suburb Lake Forest has a median household income that is three times that of Round Lake Park.
When Safewise released its list in March, Round Lake Park posted the news on its website.
For a story, I wanted to speak with local officials about the top ranking. You'd think leaders would be more than willing to discuss the achievement; this was not a scandal.
When I went to Village Hall, the two women behind the glass window declined to talk about Round Lake Park's good fortune. (Why does such a small village have a glass window separating the employees from the public?)
I emailed Mayor Linda Lucassen about the issue. I gave her my phone number, asking for an interview.
She returned the email pretty quickly, crediting her police department with the success and suggesting I speak with the police chief.
"We are very happy that we were voted the safest town. We definitely owe it to our Chief George Filenko and our officers for their dedication to our village," she wrote.
No interview with the mayor, as it turned out. I left two messages with the chief, but no return calls.
I also visited Round Lake Park's AJ's Horse & Round, where I met Linda Sadler, who lives and works in town.
She said she believed the study, saying she walked her dog day and night, feeling safe no matter the hour. A far cry from Antioch, where she used to live, she said.
Maybe the village should hire Sadler as its promoter.
Round Lake Park in rich company
Following Round Lake Park and Lake Forest are the wealthy Chicago suburbs of Western Springs, Campton Hills and Inverness – all, like Lake Forest, have median household incomes that are 3 times or higher than Round Lake Park's.
In Safewise's description, Inverness sounds like a utopia: "With a village town hall that looks like something from a fairy tale, our fifth safest Illinois city is known for its wide open spaces and friendly townsfolk. Inverness is a residential village centered on family life, as evidenced by its well-attended garden, book and women’s clubs – the oldest of which has been in existence since 1940."
North Chicago is often not seen as a safe haven. In a recent speech, Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim named it among those towns where a lot of drug and gang activity take place. Still, North Chicago was able to nab 26th on Safewise's list. The company raved, "With a strong message of diversity and equality, North Chicago is a place where everyone can feel comfortable in chasing after their dreams."
Round Lake made 45th on the list. The website said, "After all, your chance of becoming a victim of violent crime here is less than two in 1,000, and only 10 in 1,000 properties are at risk. That’s the kind of safety record that makes it easy for friends and neighbors to take full advantage of the community events that help make Round Lake special."
It noted the town's community garden program, where any resident can claim a plot.
Some people reading the Safewise website doubted the rankings.
"Round Lake and North Chicago are not ideal or safe places to raise a family," one woman wrote. "There is more crime that is obviously not being recorded than what this list shows for. "
A cross-section of the country
I spoke with Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim for a few minutes before his recent speech to the Lindenhurst-Lake Villa Chamber of Commerce at Reflections restaurant.
I noted that he has a big county to serve, with more than 700,000 people.
"This is not a cookie-cutter county," he said. "We have some of the wealthiest areas of the country and some of the poorest. We have rural areas; we have urban."
It's a cross-section of the United States, he said.
A cheesehead choice
The other day, I went to Menards in Volo to use the make-a-key machine and found that it offered eight key designs. Some of them are probably popular, like the American flag. But one stood out for me, though – the one with the Green Bay Packers emblem. Here in the Chicago area?
Then I had a suspicion. I checked Menards on my phone and discovered that it is based in Eau Claire, Wis. That would explain the cheesehead choice.
David Giuliani is news editor of Lake County Suburban Life. He may be reached at 847-223-8161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.