Rockford is often times known throughout the state for its violent crime. Thursday, Mayor Tom McNamara and Police Chief Dan O’Shea said the city is making progress towards dispelling that reputation.
Officials revealed slides on crime statistics at a press conference they say are full of hopeful news, crime in Rockford went down in 2017. Murders having the largest decline last year after the 26 cases in 2016.
“We had 18 in 2017, still too many but it’s about a 30% reduction from 2016,” said O’Shea. “We’re very happy with that. But, again, a long way to go, 18 is just too many.”
Other crimes city-wide also seeing small drops. Violent crimes just under 2,500 cases for the year, down 5%. Property crimes also down in 2017 at 8%. Mayor McNamara believes new geo-policing locations, working with local resource houses and partnerships with other law enforcement agencies played a part in the decrease. He also feels the people of Rockford uniting with the police department to take neighborhoods back has been crucial.
“Without citizens who take leadership roles in organizations, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said McNamara. “Community engagement is really the baseline of everything we do at the police department.”
Lieutenant Kurt Whisenand works in Rockford Police’s Investigative Services Bureau. He says it makes a difference when residents speak up when they notice someone or something unfamiliar in their neighborhoods.
“If they can call us ahead of time,” said Whisenand . “If they have that trust where they can call us and say ‘Hey this looks out of place, can you check it out?’, that can really go a long way to preventing not just violent crimes but all types of crimes.”
Lieutenant Whisenand conceding, however, there is still a lot of work to be done. “We know if there’s one victim, if there’s one murder victim this year, that’s too many. If there’s one robbery this year, that’s too many.”
Police say they were also able to recover 242 illegal guns in 2017.