BLOOMINGTON — McLean County followed a national trend in 2016 with a decrease in major crime.
In Bloomington, major crimes were down 5 percent in 2016 from the previous year, according to data provided in February to the city council. The data cover offenses in the FBI Uniform Crime Report: homicide, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson and human trafficking. The 1,694 serious crimes were far less than other major cities in Central Illinois.
The exception to the crime reduction was a 43 percent hike in robberies that was above the 47.2 five-year annual average, according to the city's report.
Not reflected in the UCR data was the uptick in gun violence in the city. Nine people were injured in shootings, compared to 17 the previous year.
In Normal, the 1,176 UCR offenses were down from 1,326 in 2015. A nine percent increase in accidents has NPD boosting its prevention efforts, with a focus on distracted drivers, said Assistant Police Chief Steve Petrilli.
McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers said the overall decrease in crime in McLean County was behind a lower number of felonies filed by his office last year. The 1,462 cases were down from 1,506 in 2015 and 1,586 in 2014.
The state offers several options to eligible defendants to divert them from the serious consequences of a felony, including incarceration, said Chambers. Second Chance Probation, Recovery Court for those who are mentally ill and Drug Court are among those programs.
Most troubling among the crimes reported to authorities are those involving a weapon, said Chambers. Guns and drugs are common denominators in cases, said Chambers.
Incidents where a weapon is fired will be prosecuted, said Chambers, even if witnesses refuse to cooperate.
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"Anyone who is a criminal walking around with a gun isn't just a threat to the person they think is an enemy, but the entire community," said Chambers.
In rural areas, drug arrests were up 54 percent and the 282 DUI arrests were up 114 percent from 131 in 2015 to 203 last year while UCR crimes dropped 36 percent, said Sheriff Jon Sandage. The UCR crimes were down 36 percent in the county.
"We have refocused our efforts on what causes accidents," including alcohol and distracted driving, said Sandage, noting fatal accidents were down 50 percent and crash reports declined from 350 to 278 in one year. More investigative efforts also were aimed at "combating an ever-growing drug problem," he said.
In Pontiac, the Safe Passages Program initiated by the Pontiac Police Chief Jim Woolford resulted in 11 people entering detox and treatment for opiate addiction. Police refer drug users to Chestnut Health Systems in Bloomington and IHR in Pontiac for services.
Thefts and burglaries remain at the top of Pontiac's UCR data.
Drugs and property crimes also were priorities for Lincoln police last year, according to Chief Paul Adams.
"We, like every community, have seen an explosion of opioid-based drug abuse," said Adams, noting that the harm done by opioids does not always show up in crime data.
"Drug users travel to surrounding cities to pick-up narcotics "sometimes consuming them, mainly by injection, in a parking lot in one of their jurisdictions," said Adams.