Champaign sees decline in crime rates since last year

“Crime rates”: have gone down seven percent in Champaign since this time last year.

At a study session for the Champaign City Council Sept. 13, members of the Champaign Police Department spoke about an annual crime report, which revealed the lowered rate. The report is not yet available online.

Lt. Brad Yohnka said the crime decline can be attributed to various reasons. The one he said may merit the most credit is known as intelligence-led policing. This model gathers, identifies, analyzes and disseminates the information from past criminal data to help guide police response.

Intelligence-led policing, as described in the police department’s report last week, is focused on a future-oriented and targeted approach to crime prevention.

“The best predictor of future events is past behavior,” Yohnka said.

Yohnka provided the example of an incident that occurred in the early morning of Sept. 11. An officer had begun to investigate a group of people gathered at the corner of Fourth and Green streets, particularly one individual concealing a bottle. The officer called for backup and the crowd dispersed, yet police were still able to apprehend the offender.

They arrested the individual, a convicted felon from Rantoul, after finding in his belongings a loaded pistol and cocaine.

“That’s the kind of initiative we’ve wanted to see,” Yohnka said.

The intersection of Fourth and Green streets is one location several reported crimes have taken place, particularly in cases of battery, in the south district, which runs from Wright Street to Prospect Avenue.

Most of these attacks were not started by students. Yohnka said the most common cases involved a group of people verbally harassing passersby and then attacking the victims if they responded.

Other popular targets included people walking home alone late at night.

According to the police department’s crime report, five of the top ten locations where the most service calls came in to Champaign police were located within a two-block radius. Some of these locations include Fifth Street next to Joe’s Brewery, the corner of Fourth and Green streets and Sixth Street between Green and John streets.

Firehaus Restaurant and Bar is one business within these locations. Manager Brandon Lovett said he has noticed that “the police are around a lot more this year than usual.”

To prevent future attacks, Yohnka said the Champaign and University Police Departments, along with the University, have taken “precautions”:, such as increasing police patrol and installing cameras.

“We’re using smaller offenses to deter bigger problems,” Yohnka said. “Officers are watching the behavior and addressing how to fix them.”

Another contributor to falling crime rates: community participation. Lt. Jon Swensen said holding neighborhood meetings and introducing themselves to residents helps strengthen the police-community relationship. Neighborhood watch groups, Swensen added, can prove beneficial.

In off-campus housing, parents and neighborhood watch groups are not utilized, as students are not on campus long enough to connect with a specific neighborhood group.

“If we have a problem in an apartment one year, more than likely that will change the following year because there will be new residents,” Swensen said.

Some students have taken notice of these precautions. Ben Hilgendorf, junior in LAS, said the police patrols are more noticeable this year, particularly around Campus Liquor on the corner of Fourth and Green streets. He added the patrols may be the reason behind why he receives fewer Crime-Alerts from the University compared to past years, but it is still too early to tell.

“This year, the “Crime-Alerts”: have been (appearing) even less, but it’s been only a month into the semester,” Hilgendorf said