By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Rockford’s 27 homicides are indicative of violent crime that increased in the city last year, according to new numbers released Tuesday.
According to the FBI’s 2016 annual crime report, violent crime was on the uptick while property crimes dipped. Stats show there were 4 percent more incidents of violence in 2016 than in the previous year. That includes shooting incidents, aggravated assault and robberies.
In comparing the FBI numbers with Rockford data through the first seven months of the year, violent crime is down by 6 percent compared to July of 2016. Recent shootings have overshadowed those stats, however.
Early Saturday in the 900 block of North Rockton Avenue, a man was shot and killed. No arrests have been made in that incident as of this report. Police are also still searching for a suspect they say shot a Winnebago County Sherriff’s deputy early Saturday morning in southwest Rockford.
Police say 27-year-old Jordan D. Spates, of Rockford, was being chased on foot by Deputy Stephen Wright when Spates allegedly shot the officer three times. Wright is expected to recover from his injuries.
Sunday, Sept. 24, a woman was shot in the head inside a residence in the area of Parmele Street and 16th Avenue. Police say the incident was sparked by a fight between several teens at a nearby park. Witnesses reported hearing several gunshots and later saw the victim hold a towel to her head. It is believed the bullet traveled more than a block before hitting the victim, who as in a second-story apartment.
Police are also looking for four suspects after two people were shot Sept. 20, in the area of Andrews and Underwood streets, near the District 1 police station. Both victims were shot in the leg and are expected to survive. The suspects fled the scene in a gold car.
RPD says property crimes—thefts, burglaries, and stolen vehicles—are down about 15 percent. And although officials say there is progress being made, law enforcement still has a lot of work to do to get Rockford’s crime under control.
“I am very pleased we are trending the right way,” Police Chief O’Shea told the Rockford Register Star Tuesday. “We will continue to bring down the violent crime and property crime rates. I am by no means satisfied with where it currently stands.”
This is not the first time law enforcement agencies have seen a spike violence. There were 31 murders in Rockford in 1996 and the city often sees waves of bank robberies, stolen vehicles, home invasions and domestic violence. While most bank robberies and stolen cars are reported, many do not result in immediate arrest. Others, like domestic violence, may not even be reported to police.
Local agencies are also working dozens of cold cases, including unsolved homicides on the books at the Rockford Police Department and Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office.
The City of Rockford on Monday announced a collaborative effort with Winnebago County, the Region 1 Planning Council and Loyola University Chicago in a project focused on crime and policing in the city. As part of the project, a survey has been released for residents to take part in.
“The project seeks information to better understand community perceptions of public safety and police in Rockford,” RPD said. “Responses from the survey will be used to improve policing and develop strategies to reduce violent crime in our community.”
In 2015, Rockford was the fifth-most dangerous city with a population of more than 100,000 in the United States.
With more than 971 violent crimes per 100,000 people, Rockford is now No. 3 behind Memphis and St. Louis. R.