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Crime deterrence program leader in Winnebago Co. says he saw attendance go down as crime went up

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — A newly released study on crime trends in Winnebago County includes statistics from the last decade, but what's left out of that study are the crime rates for 2020.

In 2020, Rockford had its deadliest year on record, which saw 36 people killed.

Here are some other statistics of note:

  • In 2020, Rockford police responded to 679 shots fired calls — or almost two each day. Both 2018 and 2019 saw roughly 200 fewer calls in those years.
  • In 2020, police also responded to more than 100 calls where someone was shot in Rockford, basically double the numbers from 2019.

One of the authors of the study, David Olson, a professor of criminology at Loyola University, said the uptick in crime follows a national trend. He believes COVID-19 is likely the cause.

Winnebago County State's Attorney J. Hanley agreed with Olson and so did Tommy Meeks.

Meeks runs a program at Winnebago County's Resource Intervention Center (RIC) called the "Wake Up Group." Meeks' program is for those on probation, but on a trajectory toward the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Meeks says in 2020, he noticed a drop in people getting help.

"My numbers went way down," Meeks explains. "People were not reporting. They were staying at home because of the pandemic. Some people were just out there, they didn't have a job. They couldn't go to work if they did have one and some people got caught up in the crime."

Debbie Jarvis, the Director of Court Services, says the RIC offers virtual services as well as help over the phone. For those without internet access, a limited number of people can still go in person.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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