This past weekend saw four incidents of gunfire in four days in the City of Elgin. No injuries were reported, but some property damage was found in one of the incidents.
Last year, Elgin set a record with 66 gunfire incidents. While the trend to date suggests a slight reduction by the end of the year (at the current rate, there would be 62 such incidents by year-end), the sound of gunfire is all too common in the city.
A look at the city’s crime statistics through June indicate a meaningful uptick in crimes of violence or theft compared to the first six months of 2021. While murders fell (from 3 to 2), aggravated assault increased 50% (78 to 117); burglary (including burglaries from motor vehicles) increased 172% (97 to 264); motor vehicle theft increased 122% (37 to 82); sex offences increased 30% (44 to 57); and weapons violations increased 67% (79 to 132).
Elgin Mayor David Kaptain was asked about this uptick in crime during a recent interview on the “Just A Coupla Guys” podcast hosted by former St. Charles mayor Ray Rogina and former Assistant Kane County State’s Attorney Pat Crimmins. Kaptain pointed to a combination of early releases of convicted criminals and the effect of the pandemic, and sought to put the matter in perspective.
“I think that part of that goes back to the pandemic and, well, we’ve had a number of people that were released from jail that maybe have some gang crime issues, and the pandemic gave people more time at home,” he explained. “One of the things that I’m particularly proud of is that the crime rate in Elian today is less than it was in the 1970s. And when I say crime rate, I mean the number of violent crimes, class one crimes, The actual number is less than it was in the 1970s and our population has doubled. So that’s pretty significant.”
“We’re one of the lowest crime rate cities in the entire state,” he continued. “However, we all have those little bumps. And I think this is something where certain people that became more active, let’s put it that way, in the last six or eight months, the police now are focusing on those people.”
While Mayor Kaptain suggests that Elgin has one of the lowest crime rates in the state, the most current ranking by security company SafeWise (for 2021), ranks Elgin 131st out of 265 Illinois cities.
It is worth noting that, in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the rise of the “Defund the Police” movement, Elgin set up a citizen’s task force to take a look at policing in Elgin. While the committee’s work is not yet complete, Kaptain points out that, rather than calling for a “defunding” or even reduction in the police force, the committee – made up almost entirely of minority representatives – has actually recommended an increase in police personnel.
“This committee decided that we needed to add more police officers, and they felt that some of them were being stressed because they were on overtime. And so they wanted to bring in more full-time police officers, and that’s kind of rubbed some people the wrong way [editor’s note: this presumably refers to the resignation of the committee chairwoman, LeJewel Crigler], but as you know, I’ve been around a long time. And I said that as the end result, that may be a good thing.”