WTVO NEWS Reporter Mimi Murphy states:
FBI crime data reveals growing Violent Crime PROBLEM in Rockford, Illinois.
If you feel less safe these days in Rockford, it may be because according to a report commissioned by the city, you are less safe in Rockford than you were when Chief Chet Epperson took office nearly 10 years ago.
It's an analysis that may ultimately define Epperson's legacy as police chief, and by extension, Larry Morrissey's as mayor, who has stood behind him through a lopsided vote of 'no confidence' by police officers and calls for the Chief's resignation.
The analysis of FBI crime data by an independent firm for the city found that during Chief Epperson's tenure, violent crime has gone up while arrests have gone down.
In September, Rockford city officials were presented with this 63 page report from the OJP Diagnostic Center (you can read it here). It detailed troubling trends when it came violent crime in Rockford.
For instance, OJP found that that,"In 2012-2013, Rockford's violent crime rate was substantially higher than all other comparable jurisdictions and three times the statewide average."
FBI data that shows that Rockford's violent crime rate per 100-thousand residents is nearly double that of Peoria and about triple that of Joliet, with an average of 19 murders a year since 2005. OJP added that their analysis found that while other comparable cities violent crimes rates have decreased, Rockford's have increased. "Relative to comparable jurisdictions and the state of Illinois," the report concludes, "Winnebago County's violent crime rate has not experienced the same levels of decrease since the early 1990's." And of course, the vast majority of that violent crime has happened in Rockford.
The OJP report also noted that Rockford's aggravated assault, sexual assault and robbery rates are two to nine times higher than comparable jurisdiction rates and the state of Illinois.
And while more violent crimes are being committed, OJP found that a fewer percentage are being solved. "The clearance rate (which is the percentage of crimes solved in Rockford) ranks well behind the national averages for aggravated assault, robbery and homicide rates," the report conclude.
And since around the time Chief Epperson took office, OJP found that the murder arrest rate has declined by 27%.
The Rockford Police union has been complaining for years that Epperson's policies were hurting officers' ability to do their jobs. The OJP report would appear to back up some of their concerns.
The report also noted that the relationship between Epperson and the police union is strained.