Public Safety Town Hall Educates, Dispells Local Facebook Rumors
Oak Lawn Police chief discusses 2012 crime stats, gangs and other high profile criminal cases.
In their continuing tour of the village, members of the Oak Lawn Police Department addressed 50 residents who turned out on a rainy Tuesday night for a public safety town hall at Harnew Elementary School.
The community meetings are part of a citizen-driven planning process initiated by Mayor Dave Heilmann that will guide village crime department efforts. Also sitting in the audience were Trustees Cindy Trautsch (Dist. 1) and Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) and Bob Streit (Dist. 3).
The mayor, Trautsch and Olejniczak are up for reelection in April. Several village board candidates also attended.
Oak Lawn Police Chief Bill Villanova offered a snapshot of 2012 uniform crime statistics—the areas of crime tracked by the FBI. Villanova said that Oak Lawn compares favorably to other towns in the Southland.
“When you look at our uniform crime reports, the numbers are fairly consistent. These numbers go up and down. They do that every year but they stay fairly consistent,” the police chief said. “We don’t have jumps that jump up there and stay there.
Last year, Oak Lawn police received 58,502 calls for service (911 calls). Although the 2012 crime statistics are still being compiled, raw numbers show slight increases and decreases compared to 2011, including:
- Forcible rape/criminal sexual assault: 9 (+1)
- Robberies (where a weapon was displayed or implied): 31 (+8)
- Aggravated assault/aggravated battery: 42 (+13)
- Burglaries: 114 (-26)
- Thefts: 971 (-50)
- Motor vehicle thefts: 54 (-3)
- Arson: 4 (+1)
“When you hear we had nine forcible rapes, you think, ‘why didn’t I hear about it,’” Villanova said. “All but one of them was some kind of family oriented issue, most of the time involving a child.”
The police chief also alluded to the highly publicized sexual assault case in October, in which a woman said she was beaten and forced to perform sex acts on two men.
“We haven’t cleared the case yet but we’re close to completing it,” Villanova told the audience. “We’re waiting for the last two pieces of physical evidence and data to come in. Ultimately it will turn out to be nothing like it was exposed in the beginning.”
Villanova said there were an estimated 140 gang members in Oak Lawn, culled down from a list of 200. He described most the reported gang members as “wanna bes.”
“These are people that live in town claiming some kind of gang membership but as far as them running our streets that’s not happening,” Villanova said.
The police chief also dispelled a few local Facebook rumors. That alleged shooting that supposedly took place near 96th Street and Marion Avenue a few weeks ago—it didn’t happen.
“If you’re listening to the scanner things go out as the dispatchers are desciphering what they’re basically being told,” Villanova said. “They’re giving out as much information as they can to the police officer. Quite often once the officers get there and start getting to the facts, they are nowhere near to what initially started.
“Scanners are great to have an idea of what’s going on but don’t make them the Holy Grail. They’re not exactly correct,” the police chief said.