La Grange Village Hall (Pioneer Press/Chicago Tribune)
Prompted by some recent high-profile crimes in the community, La Grange Village President Thomas Livingston has issued a statement updating residents on the status of those crimes and assuring them that the village is not experiencing an uptick in crime.
Because one of the crimes involved a homeless person, he also outlined measures the village has taken to balance the needs of the homeless with those of the community. The other crimes he cited include a robbery and a home invasion that occurred in May.
Livingston sought to quell concerns about crime by noting some statistics. He said violent crimes in La Grange accounted for only 0.08 percent of the Police Department’s total calls between 2012 and 2016, and reported violent and property crimes remained relatively consistent from year to year.
"While we have experienced three robberies in 2017, we have identified a suspect in each of these crimes who is either the offender or an accomplice," Livingston said.
He noted that other suburban communities in the region have also recently experienced uncharacteristic crime. La Grange’s crime level is not out of the ordinary, he said.
"La Grange continues to be statistically comparable to our neighbors based on total call volume," he said.
He also said the perception of an increase in crime may be because the village in recent years has worked harder to keep the public informed about crimes.
"The village has increased in the past three years its use of press releases to inform the public including alerting residents to incidences of crime, suspicious persons, and crime being reported by neighboring communities," he said. "That awareness might contribute to the sentiment that crime is significantly increasing."
In regard to a crime that occurred on May 12 in which a homeless man allegedly sexually assaulted another homeless man, Livingston said the village has worked with representatives of BEDS, a homeless shelter, to balance the needs of the community with the need to serve the homeless.
"The La Grange of yesteryear you moved to for all the right reasons had a larger overnight BEDS presence only a short time ago," Livingston wrote. "Listening to concerned citizens and working with BEDS; we will have moved from four overnight shelters in La Grange to two."
In addition, the overnight shelter schedule has been changed so that La Grange doesn’t host consecutive evenings and limits have been placed on the number of clients served at the overnight shelters that are housed in churches, he said.
Tina Rounds, executive director of BEDS, agreed that the organization has responded to the village’s concerns and tried to balance those needs with those of the homeless.
"We, all along, have worked with the village to make sure we provide services (to the homeless) and that those services are harmonious with the community," Rounds said.
Following the May 12 incident, Rounds said she has not received an increase in complaints from residents.
"We’re always in conversation with our neighbors," she said. "We haven’t seen an uptick (in concerns)."
The crimes that Livingston mentions in his letter include a home invasion and a robbery.
"Those other crimes had nothing to do with our organization," Rounds said.
She said the organization responded immediately, as its protocols require, to the alleged criminal sexual assault, and that they are now looking for other ways to improve.
"We addressed it immediately and we are looking at other ways to make it (the shelter) more secure," she said.
Livingston said crimes related to homelessness, are, on average, less than 1 percent of all calls for police service.
Residents who have expressed concerns about the program are asking the right questions and have a right to enjoy their home and community without undue disruption, Livingston wrote.
He said the village will continue to keep residents updated about crime.