Since 2005, the City of Champaign had seen a downward trend in residential burglaries and burglaries to motor vehicles. In 2013, the police department responded to the lowest number recorded in over 27 years. Beginning in 2015, there was a noticeable increase in burglaries throughout the City of Champaign. The trend continued into 2016, which ended with the highest number of burglaries reported since 1999.
In the first six months of 2017, there has been a decrease in total burglaries when compared to the same period in 2016. From January through the end of June, residential burglaries are down but motor vehicle burglaries have increased compared to the same time period last year.
Current Efforts to Combat Property Crimes
There are several action steps that the Champaign Police Department has been taking to combat burglaries. Currently, the Investigations Unit assigns burglaries to a small number of detectives to ensure that cases are appropriately connected whenever possible, and to identify when evidence shows that separate property crimes can be linked to the same suspect. Unfortunately, due to the amount of Police staffing resources that have been focused on significant gun crimes over the last three years, these detectives have not been able to focus on burglaries to the degree necessary.
Officers also conduct targeted patrols in areas that have had recent burglaries with the goal of identifying and apprehending suspects. Officers use Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) to identify geographic areas and times of day and potential suspects to focus their patrol efforts. ILP is a policing model that focuses on a future oriented and targeted approach to controlling crime. Data analysis and crime intelligence are used to guide proactive efforts to address specific criminal activity and solve problems.
Patrol officers are directed to do a neighborhood canvas on all burglary reports. The canvases allow officers to gather information from neighbors about the burglary being investigated, including whether they saw any suspicious activity in the time surrounding the burglary. It also allows officers to inform neighbors of the burglary in their immediate area in hopes that neighbors will be more aware of activity around their homes, and they will be more diligent in securing their property.
The Department is also making an effort to increase its public communications on this issue. Due to the rising number of residential and motor vehicle burglaries since 2015, multiple public service announcements have been sent through social and traditional media to help the public to keep their property secure. Our “Lock it, Hide it, Keep it” campaign is especially applicable to motor vehicle burglaries, as these types of burglaries often occur to unlocked cars.
Numerous Burglary Suspects Arrested
There are many different individuals and small groups that have engaged in this type of crime. The efforts of the Department have led to 222 suspects being arrested since 2015.
Burglaries can often be committed by serial burglars who commit numerous burglaries before they are caught or are otherwise stopped. Another challenge is when repeat offenders, specifically juvenile offenders, are not held at the Youth Detention Center after they are arrested for property crimes. Because of intake procedures and protocols at the Detention Center, often youth who are arrested for these offenses cannot be held and are released. This can lead to repeat offenders that commit further criminal acts after they have been released from custody or a sentence of probation. Since the beginning of 2015, the Police Department has made arrests on numerous repeat offenders that were arrested twice within the same calendar year for residential or motor vehicle burglaries.
Additional Actions – Creation of a Pilot Property Crimes Unit
The Department has been working to implement several additional action steps to combat residential and motor vehicle burglaries. The City Council approved a short term initiative to focus on the increase in property crimes through the creation of a pilot Property Crimes Unit. This pilot unit will focus on identifying and arresting property crimes suspects. At this point in time, the Department is taking steps to assure that there will be adequate staffing for this new unit to begin by October 1, 2017.
Special details by patrol officers will continue in neighborhoods experiencing burglaries and Intelligence Led Policing will be used to focus officer patrol activities on the geographic regions and suspects that could lead to the arrest of property crimes. The Department will continue to work with media and community groups to educate the public about how to secure their property and report suspicious activity to police. The Department will implement more messaging through social media and neighborhood groups. The Department will update neighborhood groups regularly on crimes in their area and encourage those groups to contact police to report crime.
Public Outreach & Engagement
In the last year, officers have met and provided information to several neighborhood groups to address property crime and safety education, including Garden Park, Timberline Valley North Subdivision, Parkland Ridge Subdivision, Garden Hills, Ashland Park and Turnberry Ridge Home Owner’s Association. During these meetings, citizens have expressed that these crimes definitely impact their fear of crime and the quality of life. The Department has upcoming meetings planned with the 500-800 Block of W. Washington and the Ironwood Home Owner’s Association Neighborhood Watch Kick-Off. In addition, staff attends monthly Community Coalition meetings, where community representatives are provided with regular updates on crime stats and issues as well as the police response to those problems. The Department will be exploring additional ways to more regularly share crime stats, police response, and ways in which residents can better secure property, including communications through the City’s social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor.