Story by: Tom McNamara and Dan O’Shea
Rockford is an incredible city. With 147,000 people, we have the advantages of a larger community, yet many opportunities for residents to get involved and make a difference at any level. We also have the challenges that come with a bigger city — and that includes crime.
Daily headlines, viral social media posts, online rankings and news stories grab attention, drive perception and make people feel unsafe. All this noise, especially when lacking context or detail, can breed confusion, making residents ask “what is REALLY happening?”
Statistics tell the true story of any community’s progress with public safety. In Rockford, we’re pleased to report, the data is telling us our strategies and tactics are working. The men and women of the police department are tireless and committed in their work to keep us safe and we’re seeing success.
We announced at a news conference earlier this week that violent crime is trending downward, with a drop of 11 percent in 2018 and a 17 percent decrease since 2016. Property crime, while seeing a slight 2 percent increase in 2018, also is down 5 percent since 2016. While in any week or month, we may be impacted by a short-term decrease or increase, we are focused on the long game — our challenges with public safety did not appear overnight nor will they be solved that quickly.
Community cooperation and trust is critical to both preventing crime and arresting the perpetrators. Too often, one violent act leads to another—as family members or friends attempt to take the law into their own hands — furthering the cycle of violence. Our officers are strengthening relationships with residents, leading to increased communication and information when crimes do occur. The police department cannot solve crimes on its own — we need involvement from bystanders and victims to help bring perpetrators to justice.
Our mission to drive down crime by targeting the most violent offenders and repeat offenders — focused deterrence — is seeing results as well. Nearly all the gun violence in Rockford is attributed directly or indirectly to a small number of people in our city. Taking these individuals, and their guns, off the streets is a top priority.
Preventing and responding to domestic violence — responsible for 35 percent of our violent crime — is another part of our strategy. Opening the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence & Human Trafficking Prevention in early 2018 was a key first step. Increases in arrests for domestic violence show our work to raise awareness is paying off.
However, we also must stop the pipeline of domestic violence that turns young people down the wrong path. More than 75 percent of juveniles arrested in 2016 and 2017 were victims of or witnessed domestic violence in their homes. Establishing a Family Justice Center will give survivors the resources they need to recover and also provide stability and services to children.
Clearly, we have more work to do and we need your help. When it comes to public safety, it’s important to know the facts and to seek the correct information. Relying on rumor and questionable social media posts when you have questions about public safety is short-sighted and damaging to the community.
In Rockford, your leaders are accessible. If you have questions or need more information, reach out to us directly. We speak frequently with neighborhood groups, businesses and organizations throughout the community and welcome the opportunity to share our strategies and results. Working together, we know Rockford will become a safer and more prosperous community.