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Kane County felony filings continue downward trend

ST. CHARLES – Joe McMahon counts what he considers “historical” felony conviction rates, along with several significant murder convictions, among the most notable accomplishments of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office in 2012.

McMahon, Kane County state’s attorney, said the county’s felony division disposed of 2,800 cases with a 95 percent conviction rate. That division saw more than 100 felony trials in 2012.

Overall, the state’s attorney’s office authorized 2,602 felony cases last year, which was 278 fewer felony cases than 2011. That’s down from a few years ago; more than 3,800 felony cases were authorized in 2007.

“Felony filings have been down over the last couple of years,” McMahon said. “Over the last decade, the trend is that filings go up and go down. There’s not much of a pattern.”

He said one reason for the recent drop in filings could be attributed to lower police staffing levels because of municipal budget cuts.

Misdemeanor offenses also are trending downward. Cases filed involving driving under the influence fell from 1,720 in 2011 to 1,373 in 2012. Domestic violence cases fell slightly, with the state’s attorney’s office seeing 44 fewer cases in 2012 compared with the previous year.

McMahon also noted several significant murder convictions, including that of Juan Vargas, a gang member from Aurora who was sentenced to 31 years in prison for the 2005 murder of Jorge Caro; and the 73-year sentence for Dion Spears of Chicago, who shot Derrick Bey in 2008 outside of an Elgin nightclub.

Other notable convictions included sentences for gang-motivated murder, sexually preying on a child and severely beating a toddler.

While the state’s attorney’s office tried several notable cases last year, McMahon said, the rate of violent crime has decreased in the region.

“You appreciate it when it does go down, but what’s important is you have to be ready for any increase,” he said.

Not all areas of crime are decreasing. McMahon said there’s been an uptick in heroin cases over the last year. He said the heroin on the streets now is much more potent than it was that last time there was a spike in use in the 1970s and ’80s.

He said heroin users range from teenagers to people “well into their 40s.”

“We see professionals, the unemployed, people who work in the trades, people sitting behind a desk [using heroin],” he said. “It touches all different areas.”

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