ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Shootings, break-ins, and thefts have many Rockford residents on edge.

Rockford’s mayor and police chief met directly with residents at the first of three town hall meetings Thursday to address concerns about violent crime in the city.

“We’re seeing far too much violence and we have been seeing far too much violence for decades,” Mayor Tom McNamara said before a group of residents gathered at Crusader Clinic, at 1200 W. State Street.

Police Chief Carla Redd said, according to recent statistics, there has been a slight decrease in violent crime this year, compared to 2021. According to Redd, robberies and auto thefts have increased, but homicides and murders are down 31% year over year.

Domestic violence currently makes up nearly 40% of the violent crime rate in Rockford.

“And I think that’s largely due to what we knew over the past several years, with the Family Peace Center opening up, and being more vigilant, making individuals more aware, having our survivors feeling more comfortable coming forward and reporting crimes, that we were going to see an uptick and that did happen for us,” Redd said.

Jennifer Cacciapaglia, from the Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention, said the city is trying a new approach to tackling crime.

The city’s research shows that violent offenders are often witnessing or subjected to domestic violence in childhood.

More than 60% of young suspects who are arrested for unrelated crimes can be found in past police reports as a survivor or witnesses of domestic violence or sexual abuse.

Cacciapaglia said that means that children are dealing with unmitigated trauma, which can prevent them from learning in school or having healthy social interactions, and that puts them on a path that eventually leads to violent crime.

Cacciapaglia said that the City needs to intervene.

“The fact that we’ve started to look at these kids through the lens of survivors, of exposure or being victims of domestic or sexual violence, is a brand-new strategy and not something that other communities really do, but it has led us to the children,” she said.

A child is more likely to become a domestic violence offender if they see their parent or guardian commit those acts, according to Cacciapaglia.

At Thursday’s meeting, McNamara told residents that getting to kids early is the best strategy to reduce crime and transform the city’s culture, but acknowledges the effort is a multi-generational approach.

“The City of Rockford is investing heavily in the safety of our citizens and we’re doing it on two fronts. One of through enforcement and that’s what many people consider traditional policing. The second front is to stop the cycle of violence and get to younger people and intervene and prevent future violence,” he said.

Additional public safety town halls will be held at:

Tuesday, October 25, 5:30 p.m.
Nordlof Center, 118 N. Main Street

Wednesday, November 2, 5:30 p.m.
Rockford University, Fisher Chapel, 5050 E. State Street

Residents in need of a reasonable accommodation in order to fully participate should call 779-348-7150.

If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.