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State

Rockford mayor: We're seeing progress in reducing crime

ROCKFORD — The number of violent crimes in the city is down 17% through August compared to the same time period last year, Mayor Tom McNamara said Thursday during a media briefing.

Through August, there were 1,211 violent crimes compared with 1,451 in the same time period last year. Violent crime data includes robberies, aggravated assaults, sex assaults and homicides.

"We are seeing progress," McNamara said. "Progress doesn't mean we are where we want to be, need to be or where our citizens deserve us to be."

McNamara said that there have been 178 robberies through August this year, down from 226, a 21% drop. This year has seen 13% fewer property crimes, down to 3,336 from 3,843.

Despite spasms of gun violence that have terrified neighborhoods — including the Tuesday morning shooting that wounded an 11-year-old girl in her Hancock Street home — there has been less gunfire compared to last year. The 273 shots fired documented by police through August were 19% fewer than the 338 over the same period last year.

Domestic violence march

McNamara announced that his second annual Mayor's March Against Domestic Violence will begin at noon on Oct. 6.

The 2-mile march is meant to illustrate how far survivors of domestic violence must travel throughout Winnebago County to access the services they need. McNamara is an advocate for a Family Peace Center that would consolidate many of the services for domestic violence survivors in one place.

He said the march starting at City Hall would be led by survivors of domestic violence that form his voices committee, which helps inform the work of the Mayor's Office of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention.

Domestic violence remains one of the city's most pervasive crime problems. Of the 887 aggravated assaults reported to the Rockford Police Department through August this year, 53% were related to domestic violence, and 35% of all violent crime in the city is linked to domestic violence.

911 controversy

McNamara said Rockford will continue to answer 911 calls despite a letter from Winnebago County informing the city it would no longer reimburse it for the service. The county made the decision as it tries to close a projected $4.8 million budget shortfall.

McNamara emphasized that 911 call-taking is a county function under Illinois law.

Winnebago County for years has paid Rockford $578,000 a year for a dozen Rockford call-takers to answer about 180,000 emergency calls annually. McNamara said 911 is not where any logical government would look for savings.

He said the city answers twice as many 911 calls as the county, which operates its own 911 call center. Although he said the city will not risk public safety and will cover the cost for now, it will not answer hundreds of thousands of emergency calls for free.

"We are not going to let the petty politics going on, and the poor logic when it comes to trying to fill a budget gap that's going on over at the county — we are never going to allow that dysfunction to affect the public safety of any citizen in the city of Rockford," McNamara said.

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©2019 Rockford Register Star, Ill.

Visit Rockford Register Star, Ill. at www.rrstar.com

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