ST. CHARLES – A 14 percent increase in the number of felony filings in the first half of 2017 was announced by Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon at his monthly media briefing July 11.
“[It’s] a significant increase … for the second year in a row,” McMahon said. “Crime is cyclical, [but] the fact that this is the second [year] is something we’re paying attention to.”
He said that while there have been fewer arrests in Aurora, one area of increase has been an uptick of felony retail thefts from the Walmart relocated to Carpentersville.
The county’s felony filings number about 1,247 to date, versus 1,068 during the same period last year.
McMahon also reviewed the recent no-refusal operation designed to enhance driving-under-the-influence enforcement. It was conducted by his office and multiple police agencies across Kane County on the Fourth of July into early morning July 5. McMahon said two arrests of drivers were made, one in Geneva and one in Aurora.
“I’m pleased there were only two, but two are too many,” McMahon said. “I’m glad the vast majority [of motorists] made better arrangements.”
The event was the 21st such operation and the fourth to fall on the July 4 holiday.
All 21 previous efforts resulted in a total of 136 drivers being charged.
In an update, McMahon said the application to proceed with Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement officers to de-escalate interactions with people dealing with mental health issues is still pending before the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
The proposal, which has county funding available if state approval is gained, has been championed by the Fox River Valley Initiative, composed of concerned citizens who participate through their member organizations.
The Fox River Valley Initiative separately has issued a news release that it will conduct a summer assembly on the subject of CIT, as well as affordable housing, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 3 at Benedictine University Goodwin Hall Auditorium at 5700 College Road in Lisle. The public is invited and details are offered by Rick Lathrop at email@example.com or 630-715-7098.
On another front, McMahon said the Elgin Police Department is moving towards full implementation of body-worn cameras for 140 officers by later this year.
He talked about the benefits of contemporaneous documentation of events for both sides in legal cases, but added there’s a significant drain on his office’s resources simply in the video viewing time for attorneys.
A minimum of about 30 minutes of video for a case with one officer is typical, he said. That number is multiplied by the number of responding officers called in for incidents such as domestic violence.
As cameras become more common, agencies across the country are sharing advice on best practices.
“People behave better when they know they are being audio and video recorded,” McMahon said, noting there has been a decrease in citizen complaints against police nationwide. “[Video] provides accountability on both sides.”
Among the positives, he also noted that video provides better direction in the charging process, and gives judges and jurors a more complete picture of what was said, including capturing emotions during an incident. Attorneys are gaining specialized expertise in effectively utilizing the new tool available to them.
McMahon commented on the high percentage of cases that end in plea agreements – up to 97 percent nationally – and reflected that he doesn’t want the fewer number of trials to keep jurors – the public – from seeing firsthand what goes on in a courtroom. He believes it improves confidence in law enforcement, prosecutors and the judicial system.
“I think there is value in going through the process in an open and public way,” McMahon said.