Metro-East News

How can crime in St. Clair County be down but charges up? New study explains

With murder and mayhem leading the news, it seems as if lawlessness is everywhere.

But a Loyola University Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice study found that crime is actually down in St. Clair County.

“The big takeaways are that reported crime is down over the past five to 10 years for both violence and property crimes, and that while violent crime, and in particular, homicide, generates a lot of attention, and rightly so, most crime in St. Clair County does not involve violence,” said David Olson, a professor who teaches in Loyola’s criminal justice and criminology department and authored the study.

Olson’s study did not focus on any particular municipality. But the study found that Belleville, the largest city in the county, accounted for 27 percent of all property. East St. Louis, the third biggest city, accounted for 49 percent of violent crimes reported to police.

The report from 2010-16, in Illinois outside of Cook and St. Clair County, property crime, such as theft, burglary and auto theft, decreased by 24 percent. The report further found that during the same time period felony cases increased 35 percent while the number of violent crimes decreased by 41 percent.

The study relied on data available through FBI crime statistics, state agencies serving the county, including prison and parole.

Changes in sentencing for those case may divert offenders from overcrowded prisons.

“I think the most compelling finding is that there has been a clear shift in sentencing practices in St. Clair County in the past six to seven years with less reliance on prison and a shift in who is going to prison with a larger share of prison sentences involving violent crime, fewer involving drug law violence,” Olson said.

From 2010 to 2017, the report found that those sentenced to prison for a violent crime increased by 15 percent while arrests for non-violent drug offenses fell 42 percent. The study credits drug diversion programs such as Adult Redeploy, Drug Court and the Offender Accountability Program.

But after offenders are released from prison, staying out of prison remains a challenge.

The study found 47 percent of adult released from prison will be rearrested within three years.

Olson said the study isn’t making recommendations for battling crime.

“The goal of our project is to work with the local practitioners and policy makers to first help them understand how their overall system is operating with the goal of eventually performing additional analysis that leads to the development of a strategic plan,” Olson said.

“This report is intended to provide a baseline for the discussions so they don’t start with inaccurate assumptions about violence being at record levels or that large numbers of prison releasees are being charged with murders and other violent crimes.”