A report published last month by Law Street Media ranked Burbank as Illinois’s 24th most dangerous city in 2013 among cities with a population of at least 25,000.
The report, shared on The Burbank Beat’s Facebook page generated a reach of nearly 70,000 readers, prompted hundreds of ‘likes’ and comments, and stirred controversy within the Burbank police department and city hall.
Burbank’s police chief doesn’t dispute the Law Street report but believes it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of crime in the community. Shore said he has fundamental issues with the methodology used in determining the rankings and the arbitrary nature of looking only at those cities greater than 25,000 people.
Indeed, the population criterion used by Law Street is what boosted Burbank to number 24, since the vast majority of cities in Illinois are less than 25,000.
Using the same FBI data and methodology used by Law Street Media, The Burbank Beat calculates Burbank would have ranked 113th in violent crime out of a total of 506 cities statewide if all cities in Illinois had been included in the 2013 Law Street Media report regardless of population.
Over all Burbank ranks 229th out 506 statewide when all crime (violent crimes and property crimes) is taken into account.
LAW STREET MEDIA’S REPORT
According to Law Street Media’s website, the rankings were compiled using 2013 violent crime data from the FBI.
Law enforcement agencies across the nation report crimes to the FBI under the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) guidelines. These crime statistics are then published annually by the FBI in the Crime in the United States series.
Violent crime for the purpose of the report is defined as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
The Law Street report calculated the rankings of Illinois cities over 25,000 by taking the number of violent crimes, dividing by the population, then multiplying the result by 100,000.
“You have to look at the overall picture when we’re dealing with crime,” Shore said. “I have a problem with some of the ways they formulated [the study] because it’s a subjective way of thinking about it. What I would like to see is someone do an actual true study of communities 30,000 and under and then see where you are at the end.”
The FBI provides cautions about the use of its UCR data in rankings. A disclaimer published with the Uniform Crime Reports states:
“FBI Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place.”
The most important thing Shore wants residents to be aware of is that overall crime is down.
“We’ve seen a steady decrease in all our UCR report writings with an overall decrease of 45.9 percent since the inception of the department, There’s been a substantial, substantial decrease,” Shore said. “2012 was an up year for our crime stats but 2013 dropped tremendously, 21%. We can’t explain one hundred percent why that happened.”
In general, crime has consistently been trending lower throughout the city since Burbank began recording UCR data in 1989. With one month left to go in 2014, Burbank is expected to experience it’s lowest crime levels in the history of the city.
Through November 2014, the city has recorded a total of 399 crimes, down from a total of 496 in 2013. Crime is down in all categories with the exception of burglaries and vehicle thefts, which are up slightly.
Shore said that residents see “burglary” and think of homes being broken into. According to Shore, many of the recorded burglaries are actually crimes where property has been taken from an unlocked vehicle.
“Sometimes you get teenagers walking down the street and they’re just looking for open door handles on cars. When they find an open door handle and they go into your car and take two dollars worth of change, we have to classify it as a burglary,” Shore said.
According to Division Chief Mike Dudlo, an increase in the number of aggravated assaults is the reason the city’s violent crime index jumped in 2013 thus elevating Burbank’s ranking in the Law Street report.
“There’s no denying it, those numbers compared to the couple years before have nearly doubled,” Dudlo said, “but you have to look at the overall picture when we’re dealing with crime.”
“We don’t have direct answers for that little spike on that one,” Shore added referring to the increase in assaults.
Shore doesn’t like the way the FBI categorizes violent crimes like aggravated assault. UCR data reflects charges from the initial arrest report and not the actual crimes a suspect may eventually be charged with. Shore said after a State’s Attorney looks at a case, many times an initial charge of aggravated assault is downgraded to a simple assault or even disorderly conduct, however the crime would still be classified as a violent crime under the FBI’s program.
Shore pointed out that through November 2014, Burbank has recorded a total of 18 aggravated assaults, over a 60 percent decrease from a total of 47 in 2013.
Pointing to a data table showing a steady decrease of crime in Burbank since 1989, Shore said, “In our eyes these are the true hard facts for us right here. Even the feedback from the community that we hear, they are very, very happy to live in this community and they’re very appreciative of the service we provide. It’s generally good feedback,” Shore said.
GANGS IN BURBANK
“We have a zero tolerance with gangs,” Shore said. “We have a zero tolerance with drug dealings”
Both Shore and Dudlo acknowledged that gang issues contributed to an uptick in assault and batteries the last few years but contend the problem has been dealt with and is under control.
Shore cited a town hall meeting the City of Burbank and the Burbank Police Department hosted at Reavis High School in September 2012 as a successful exchange of information between residents and police.
“It wasn’t a secret there were a lot of gang problems that year  and a lot of people voiced their concerns about it,” Dudlo said.
“Two rival gangs, one was on the other side of Cicero Avenue and our boys thought they still ran the faction here,” Shore said. “As they unloaded out of their cars and started beating each other, there’s your aggravated battery cases.”
“Since then, it’s curtailed,” Shore added.
Dudlo believes the current dip in crime is impart due to the swift response of the Burbank Police departments to the gang activity in 2012.
“A lot of the kids we were dealing with were young adults. A lot of them have been locked up and are still in prison as a result. So that certainly has helped,” Dudlo said.
Shore credits the city’s Crime-free Housing ordinance as helping to curtail gang problems. “That Crime-free Housing [ordinance] has had so much power. Once those fines started getting slapped on those parents all of a sudden – crickets, that’s all you hear,” Shore said.
Shore and Dudlo discussed several recent shootings within the city.
“All the shootings have been gang related,” Dudlo said.
“They’re all gang related,” Shore agreed. “This is not a random thing, it’s an isolated thing. It’s ‘you did this to my guy and now I’m doing this to yours.’ But I’m telling you that has been nipped in the bud and the families have been issued crime free housing citations.”
Dudlo addressed the recent rash of catalytic converter thefts that have been plaguing Burbank and many of the neighboring communities.
“A lot of the [catalytic converter thefts] going on along Cicero Avenue we attribute to the inner city gangs,” Dudlo said. “Once they start hitting the residential streets, we have a pretty good suspicion that a lot of it was just copycat and opportunistic for some of the other residents that may have been living in town or nearby.”
Police however do not believe a rare double homicide in Burbank last year was gang related, even though one of the victims was alleged to be the founder of an outlaw motorcycle gang.
“We believe it was something else,” Dudlo said. “Related to his past? Absolutely. It was definitely related to his past. Our primary suspect is incarcerated. The Feds have him.”
POLICE AND THE COMMUNITY
Shore believes that open and honest communication is the key to building trust with the residents of Burbank.
Shore said, “I love open communication with the community. I want to hear the qualms people have. It takes a village to raise a child and I love that concept. It’s 30,000 residents communicating with us to get that task done. Let me know your concerns, if you have some issues you want addressed, I’ll be happy to look into them.”
Shore, a Burbank resident and 21-year veteran of the police force, was appointed Chief of Police in June after the retirement of former chief Bruce Radowicz.
“Chief Radowicz definitely handed something very positive over to me, that Chief Kujawa before handed down to him. I just want to run with the torch and keep going. I’m always looking about what? That number [crime rate] going down more and more and more,” Shore said.
“Can I make a guarantee that it’s going to go down every year? No I can’t. But that is our overall goal and objective and it has consistently done it and is going to continue to do it. It might start with the top brass but it’s actually our officers out there that are making these numbers go down.”
“I have an excellent support staff. I’m not the type of person to say it’s my way or the highway. I listen to everybody’s feedback and thoughts. If anybody’s got a new idea or concept they’ve worked on and says ‘this is a new trend or this is a new strategic plan to implement,’ we’ll look into it.”
Shore takes a great deal of pride in the professional police department he heads and says that Burbank officers have a deep feeling of connection to the community.
“Officers take pride, not only in their job, but the community where they’re working. We have a very well-rounded department which I feel works extremely well with the community. As a team I think we’re keeping Burbank safe,” Shore said.
“I want everybody to be happy. Those are the people out there that are paying our salaries and I want them to be proud of our services.” ❒
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