ST. CHARLES – Kane County last year saw a slight increase in the number of felony filings along with a sharp rise in the number of juvenile cases.
The Kane County State's Attorney's Office handled 2,494 felonies, a 3.3 percent increase when compared with 2,413 felony cases in 2017. The felonies fall into three categories – drug offenses, domestic related offenses and property crimes.
"It's not a huge increase when we average that out," Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said during his monthly media briefing on Jan. 15. "That's a little more than one additional felony per week. It's not dramatically changing our workload."
McMahon said he thought the felony property crimes were "highly motivated by addiction to drug and alcohol."
"What we often see are individuals kind of self-medicating to deal with a undiagnosed mental health issue and trauma when they were younger," he said. "And then a lot of times there are property crimes – whether it's retail theft or a car or residential burglary – where they're stealing property that they then can transfer into quick money for a street hit of cocaine or marijuana or heroin."
At the same time, his office saw a 19 percent increase in the number of juvenile cases. Last year, there were 393 juvenile cases, compared to 329 cases in 2017.
"There were also 393 cases in 2016," McMahon said. "So there was a big drop in 2017 and back, ironically, to the same number we were in 2016."
His office plans to issue its annual report in February. The State's Attorney's Office also helped collect about $27 million in child support payments last year.
"That's been pretty consistent the last three years," McMahon said.
McMahon attributed the increase in felonies to the State's Attorney's Office identifying misdemeanors that are eligible for felony enhancement based on a defendant's prior criminal history.
"A lot of times when a case comes in, a complete and accurate picture of the defendant's criminal history is not available to us," McMahon said. "As we get into that case, as we dig into the defendant's background through Secretary of State records and through the local, state and national data bases on criminal histories that we in law enforcement have access to, we're better able to identify those defendants who are repeat offenders and eligible for an enhanced sentence."
There were seven homicides reported in Kane County in 2018. McMahon's office filed charges in four of those cases.
"The other three remain under investigation," he said. "But in addition to those four cases that we charged, we charged two other cases from 2017 that we not charged until 2018. And we charged in one case where the offense occurred in 2011."
One of those cases involved a Bartlett man being charged with drug-induced homicide following the July death of a Campton Hills woman. Regarding the increase in juvenile crimes, McMahon took note of the fact that the Kane County Board decided to eliminate the electronic home monitoring system for 2018 in order to balance the county's budget.
"Juvenile court services, used, I think quite effectively, the electronic home monitoring program for juveniles, to kind of have an intermediate layer of supervision where they didn't have to be assigned a personal probation officer," McMahon said. "They didn't necessarily have to come into juvenile court. With the elimination of that program, that eliminates one option for juvenile court to kind of resolve these cases without referring them to juvenile court. So that's disappointing to me. This office historically has really tried to emphasize the importance of diversion programs and that diversion programs represent a long term investment in individuals and in our community."
McMahon said he thinks that the electronic home monitoring program will come back, but he said "there has to be a long term funding solution before it does."
However, he said his office is still committed to using diversion programs for juveniles.
"I believe to my core the value of these diversion programs, but what we are seeing is more kids being sent to our office for criminal prosecution than we have the last couple of years," McMahon said.