ST. CHARLES – Even though Kane County prosecutors so far have charged fewer felony cases this year as compared to last year, they continue to keep busy trying to process new types of evidence.
"We're now getting actual video and audio and digital information that has to be reviewed and analyzed and stored," Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said in a recent media briefing. "It's really over the last five or six years where we have seen a significant increase in the presence and recovery of digital and video evidence."
He noted that many businesses these days have surveillance video systems, something which is also becoming popular among homeowners.
"Our ability to recover that information from victims' homes is becoming more common as well," McMahon said. "The use of surveillance video has helped us identify suspects or individuals. There may be no eye witnesses present to the event. Historically in those crimes, if there wasn't a fingerprint or some type of other physical evidence recovered from the crime scene, it might go uncharged. It also helps law enforcement kind of narrow down possible suspects."
In July, McMahon said his office had filed 33 fewer felony cases this year as compared to last year. At the end of June, his office had filed 1,282 felony cases. At the same time last year, prosecutors had filed 1,315 felony cases.
"When you look at just the numbers, it's not a significant change in the workload or a reduction in the workload," he said. "To me, what is really the bigger issue and the bigger story as it relates to our workload over the last couple of years is the type of information and how our work has changed. In business and in our personal lives, we're really migrating towards kind of a digital experience and everything and that's how so much more evidence is coming into the office."
That includes such evidence as video surveillance, he said.
"We're now seeing video coming in from Ring doorbells," McMahon said. "We're now getting actual video and audio and digital information that has to be reviewed and analyzed and stored."
Ring manufactures a range of home security products that incorporate outdoor motion based cameras and smart doorbells, such as the Ring Video Doorbell.
Kane County also is following a nationwide trend of violent crime being down, McMahon said.
"Our trends are consistent with what is being reported at least to us from the Aurora and Elgin police departments – two of the largest communities in the region – but also on a national basis," McMahon said. "The most recent information available from the FBI shows through the first half of 2018, violent crime across the country, and specifically in the Midwest, is trending down as well."
The FBI data is about a year behind, he said.
Misdemeanor cases also continue to go down, McMahon said. As of June 30, there had 2,005 misdemeanor cases filed by his office, compared to 2,070 in 2018, about a 3 percent decrease.
He said the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana could be one reason for the decline.