2020 CRIME RECAP: The deadliest year in Rockford’s recorded history

Published: Dec. 28, 2020 at 8:46 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - 2020 is the deadliest year on record for the city of Rockford. Leaders say the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some residents to turn to crime to cope with frustrations.

The Rockford Police Department released its January through November of 2020 statistics that show a comparison to 2019. Police report a 49% increase in shots fired calls, 33% increase in aggravated assaults and the overall violent crimes are up 21%. But, rockford city leaders are looking into what changes need to be made in 2021.

“The shooting and crimes have gone up exponentially,” said Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea.

O’Shea is devastated to see the city take a huge step backward in the violent crime rate after years of hard work.

“2016 to 2019 we took it down every year, we took it downward and we were doing the right until 2020 and the pandemic hit us,” O’Shea said.

Social interactions between officers and the community is what O’Shea believes is the best way to combat crime.

“We couldn’t do the ice cream socials and the block parties and the kick games so we lost a lot of contact with people,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea says those events allow the community to meet officers and learn to trust them.

“The people who know provide us information, pointing us in the right direction of who is committing the crimes,” O’Shea said.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says while the officers are proactive in building a connection on the surface, his office looks to work with kids to build a successful future for the forest city.

“We as an entire community wrap our arms around our young people to encourage them. mentor them, and assisted them in bettering themselves in education,” McNamara said.

McNamara says trauma and crime go hand in hand for many young offenders..

“We know that these young people who have pain inside show it outside specifically the young men. That’s why initiatives like Camp Hope in the city of Rockford are so important,” McNamara said.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana says there were several accomplishments made in 2020 which include the opening of the Family Peace Center.

“We were able to help and aid and assist the movement of the domestic violence unit which has been in this building for 4 years,” Caruana said.

The creation of the Co-Responder pilot program.

“We have that going on right now and that’s moving on quite well and they are able to be proactive in helping people that have mental health issues,” Caruana said.

Now that a COVID-19 vaccine is available the leaders of the community are confident 2021 will be a safer year for all.

“We are hoping that a good portion of the population will be inoculated by April. So next summer we have all of our stuff laid out,” O’Shea said.

Within the Rockford crime numbers there were a couple areas of victory the city saw a 17% drop in property crime, a 6% decrease in robberies and now that the peace centers open domestic related crimes are down 5%.

The Rockford Police Department will release the 2020 crime numbers for December sometime next month.

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