SOUTH BELOIT - There's been a decrease in the crime rate from 2017 to 2018, according to the South Beloit Police Department's annual crime report.
The department saw a total of 6,839 calls for service in 2018, up nearly 20 percent from 2017.
But the increased calls for service don't necessary correlate with higher crime. The department's crime index was down to a total of 116 offenses for last year, a 14 percent reduction despite three homicides in the city.
Police Chief Pat Hoey said the deadly shootings were a reminder of the need to stay vigilant and continue community outreach. Hoey was hired in November of 2017 after working for several years on the command staff of the Rockford Police Department.
"It was out of the ordinary to have three murders," Hoey said. "It shows that no matter where you live, crime is around, but I think we really expanded community engagement and what I found is the people really love their department. I found that people want to see the officers engage with them and we've heard great things."
Early into 2018, Hoey said the department would increase traffic enforcement and boost social media interactions with the community, both of which are paying off. Traffic citations increased by 56 percent with a total of 1,243 citations being issued, with over 500 written warnings. Overall, citations for non-traffic-related issues increased by 60 percent for a total of 112 ordinance violations.
Traffic crashes were down marginally by two percent, with 178 crashes being reported in 2018 compared to 174, according to the report. Hoey said traffic enforcement would remain a high priority in the department, with the chief recently applying for Illinois Department of Transportation grant funding for overtime staffing during 2019's busiest holiday weekends from Memorial Day to New Year's Eve.
New in 2018 was the late addition of patrol officer-turned-detective Paul Reed who joined on Dec. 17 and already has his hands full with over a dozen cases under investigation.
"He's staying very busy and they are glad he's doing that, too," Hoey said. "It's a good thing."
Hoey added more new staff could be coming, with a potential intergovernmental agreement with the South Beloit School District for adding a school resource officer to the district, along with two part-time police officers. Including command staff, the department has 14 full-time sworn officers.
"We really want to keep engaging with the community," Hoey said. "It's something that's refreshing."