The Village of Winnebago has the reputation of being a quiet, crime-free, close knit community with outstanding schools. As a resident of the Village, I also shared the blanket comfort of feeling safe and secure in my “Mayberry” town. As a Village Trustee, I am still quite proud of our schools, the quietness of the town and the way the town pulls together when needed.
Public safety in Winnebago is taken for granted. The Village of Winnebago Police Department is staffed with committed, community driven officers and is led by a police chief who is a life long resident dedicated to the safety of Village residents. Until I began my stint as the Chair of the Village of Winnebago Police Committee, I didn’t realize exactly how hard they work to keep our residents safe. I also didn’t realize that successes on behalf of the Rockford Police Department may come to create more work for the Winnebago Police Department; that is, until yesterday.
On an invitation from the RPD, I attended yesterday’s Compstat along with Winnebago Police Chief Todd Stockburger. The coordination, professionalism and analysis on crimes committed, hot spots, arrests and crime trending is comprehensive and valuable for law enforcement in surrounding Villages and towns and others with a stake in public safety. The more we know what’s happening outside our backdoor, the more prepared we can be to deal with it. Yes, we’re all hearing about the increase in burglaries, armed robberies and assaults; but what we aren’t hearing is the extreme coordination occurring to combat these crimes.
Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson and his administration are taking positive steps toward reducing recidivism and they aren’t doing it alone. They are astutely coordinating with other law enforcement, justice and human service professionals. They realize that the better job they do at putting pressure on people committing crimes in the City of Rockford, the more likely it is that those criminals will expand their territory to outlying communities. These outlying communities can be proactive and ready if they know what’s happening, who’s doing it and where. You’d be surprised at how often the same name pops up in multiple police departments.
I was glad to see Compstat wasn’t a “feel good” PR-type meeting; Chief Epperson and Deputy Chief Sweeney asked probing and difficult questions that really dug deeper into the analysis of why certain crimes were occurring, what specific approaches were working and wasn’t. The coordination between the various departments in the RPD was obvious, the need for it was just as obvious.
It was impressive to see leadership from ATF (Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms), Chief Judge Joe McGraw, Court Services Director Dennis Meyers, Rockford Human Services, Rockford Housing Authority, Winnebago Police Chief Stockburger and the Illinois State Police Stolen Auto Task Force Commander, along with citizens from Rockford and Winnebago County at the Compstat meeting. The coordination and capacity of these combined law enforcement agencies and service providers has the ability to make a huge dent in crime recidivism.
We’ve all asked for more transparency in policing and government – the Rockford Police Department is offering that transparency by opening Compstat to the public. The meeting is held at 7:00 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Public Safety Building. This is a perfect opportunity to gain a more comprehensive understanding of crime occurring in northern Illinois and how area law enforcement are handling it and planning for the future.