Crime continued to drop in Forest Park in 2005 though not by nearly as much as one year ago when it declined by 19 percent. According to crime statistics released last week by the Forest Park Police Department crime dropped in 2005 by an additional three percent.
The report, which tracks major crime categories, did reflect some notable shifts including a decrease in drug arrests and a hike in thefts.
Drug arrests dropped by nearly 50 percent last year, from 101 in 2004 to 51 in 2005. The most substantial drop was in marijuana related arrests, which dropped from 39 in 2004 to 13 in 2005. Arrests for possession of other controlled substances dropped by about 30 percent, while arrests for paraphernalia decreased from 20 to 9.
Police Chief James Ryan said that the decrease in arrests is largely attributable to increased enforcement in areas with a reputation for drug use, such as the parking lot of the Thornton’s gas station at 601 Harlem Ave.
“There’s been a problem going on for a long time at Thornton’s that generated a lot of drug arrests…I think word kind of got out among drug users [that police were on the lookout],” he said.
Ryan said there is no way to know for sure whether drug use in town has dropped along with the number of arrests made. Regardless, numbers from the early months of 2006 seem to indicate that drug arrests are on the rebound, with eight cannabis arrests, 11 arrests for other controlled substances and nine paraphernalia arrests already recorded through March.
Thefts in the village were up nearly 10 percent from 460 in 2004 to 512 in 2005, while arrests for these crimes dropped by about a quarter, from 221 to 163.
Ryan said that, essentially, people are stealing more because they now have more places to steal from.
“The problem we have is as we increase retail establishments, we have an increase in crimes of opportunity,” he said. According to Ryan, a majority of retail thefts in town occur at the large chain stores along Roosevelt Road, such as Kmart at 7630 Roosevelt Rd., Wal-Mart at 1300 Desplaines Ave., and Walgreens at 7200 Roosevelt Rd.
Another notable increase was in motor vehicle thefts, up from 68 in 2004 to 90 in 2005. Only two arrests were made for these crimes last year, compared to none the year before.
“We have noticed a substantial jump in auto thefts but we haven’t really noticed a pattern,” he said, noting that it has been difficult for patrolling officers to stay on the lookout for such crimes without knowing what to look for.
One reoccurring problem, he said, comes from people using false identification to purchase cars at auto dealerships in town.
One success the department has enjoyed is an increase in robbery arrests, which doubled from five in 2004 to 10 last year, though only one such arrest has been made through March in 2006. The number of robberies committed in town also increased by about 30 percent, from 24 to 34. Burglaries dropped off slightly, from 125 in 2004 to 115 in 2005, with arrests up from 12 to 16.
“With burglaries we’ve been pretty successful because usually we can find a pattern and do surveillances and an investigation. If there’s no pattern we can’t do a stakeout,” Ryan said.
Reports of robberies, burglaries and auto thefts, each dropped over 10 percent from 2003 to 2004, with the village’s overall crime rate dropping nearly 20 percent that year.
Arrests for aggravated assaults and batteries were also up in 2005, going from 16 to 24 while occurrences of these crimes dropped from 39 to 31.
There were no murders in town last year, compared to two in 2004, and incidents of criminal sexual assault dropped from four to two, with no arrests being made.