Chief of Police Richard Eddington released the Department’s 2012 crime statistics during a press conference on March 8. The numbers showed a slight downtick, 0.7 percent, in the overall “Part I” crime rate – 2,309 crimes in 2012 compared to 2,324 in 2011. Significantly, however, the City could not build upon the significant decrease in violent crime it had in 2011.

Part I crimes are generally those indexed to make up a jurisdiction’s crime rate. They include violent crimes (murder, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault and battery) and property crimes (burglary, theft, car theft and arson). In Evanston, said Chief Eddington, “theft is the most commonly occurring crime” and is therefore “the driver” of the crime rate.

Reported thefts totaled 1,565 in 2012, down from 1,673 in 2011. This was the lowest number reported over a 12-year span dating back to 1995 and well off the peak 4,696 in 1996.

A decrease in thefts, however, was overshadowed by an increase in violent crime. A nearly 50 percent  jump in aggravated assault-and-battery charges – from 96  in 2011 to 148 in 2012 –  “caught my eye,” said the Chief. He attributed the increase to two factors: an increase in arrests for domestic disturbances and the “ongoing conflict between distinct groups of people that do not like each other.”

Since 1995, there have been one, two or three murders every year (but five in 2010). Again in 2012 there were three murders: Dajae Coleman, Justin Murray and Javar Bamberg. The Chief attributed all  three to the “ongoing conflict” but said that the murder of Dajae Coleman was “a case of mistaken identity.” Wesley Woodson III has been arrested and charged with that murder.

Chief Eddington said the department continues to work closely with the Cook County State’s Attorney and expects to bring charges in the other two murder cases. He said that assembling a prosecutable murder case is a long and complex endeavor, especially “when it is, in my opinion, hampered by a ‘no snitch’ culture” and when participants are involved in multiple incidents.

The Chief vowed to keep working the cases until charges could be brought. “There are two people who really remember victims,” he said, “the families and the cops.” The department continues to work on 20- year-old cold cases, for example, he said.

On the whole, the crime figures showed a mix of positive and negative. In 2012,  the negative – an ongoing conflict resulting in death, injury and incarceration – significantly outweighed the positive.A recent court decision that ruled unconstitutional Illinois’s law prohibiting citizens from carrying concealed weapons in the state has set off a bit of a scramble in Springfield for legislators to come up with a law that allows for but sets restrictions on such a right. Evanston’s Police Chief Richard Eddington called for a licensing scheme that would require significant training before a citizen could carry a concealed weapon.

“If you’ve decided to arm yourself, you must be exposed to the rules [and learn] when you’re legally entitled to use deadly force,” he said.

By way of example, he said, a police officer spends 80 hours of training specifically devoted to firearms and the use of force. Each officer then augments that training with a minimum of 16 hours each year of training on firearms.

Carrying a firearm “is a huge responsibility,” he said. At a minimum, the state should implement a model based on the licensing of drivers so that a resident  must “test into” the right to carry a firearm in Illinois.