WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- The two men arrested for the Broadway Street robberies were on parole and from outside the area. Ever since we learned about their pasts, our Facebook page has been lighting up. Many want to know more about this parole system and why these parolees were in Rockford.
Last year, 5% of inmates in the Winnebago County Jail were parolees who had committed another crime. Although that number is low, Sheriff Richard Meyers says most of those crimes were violent.
"People need to be concerned anytime there is a violent crime in their neighborhood. it's premature to say whether this is a random act. what's fair to say that a majority of the time it's not,” said Meyers.
Rockford residents raised concerns over where parolees come from after the arrests last week of the two parolees accused of armed robberies at businesses along Broadway street. One of the men was from Peoria, the other Chicago.
According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, it’s not uncommon for inmates to come to Winnebago County from other counties.
“I don’t think there’s any mass, lets send a whole busload of people to Winnebago County, but there are people who do come here from other places that didn’t originate from here, but there are people from here that go to other places also.”
There are three half-way houses the DOC uses in the Rockford area, the Salvation Army, Rosecrance, and the Rockford Rescue Mission.
Last year about three percent of those staying at the Rescue Mission were on parole. About a third of those came from prisons outside our area.
There are times the Rescue Mission turns parolees away. For example, sex offenders cannot stay at the Rescue Mission.
“It’s definitely not a come one, come all. It’s definitely an educated process that says we feel this person will not only benefit from the program, but not be a detriment or a danger to anybody else that is also involved in the program,” said Chris Eldridge with the Rockford Rescue Mission.
While the sheriff and many others are concerned about whether a parolee is danger to the community, Sheriff Meyers says that can’t be the only concern.
“There’s so many other people committing crimes just like what happened on Broadway that aren’t on parole.”
As for the Rescue Mission, parolees will usually only stay there five to ten days before finding a permanent place to live.
Because the Department of Corrections doesn’t keep track of how many inmates are coming to Winnebago County from outside our area every year, there isn’t an exact number. However, the DOC did say there are more Winnebago County parolees going to other counties than there are outsiders coming here.