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Naperville Named 'Safest City Of Its Size' In Illinois

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (STMW) -- West sububan Naperville is by far the safest city of its size in Illinois.

The 2010 crime statistics released by the FBI Monday show that the level of crime in Naperville is far lower than is typical for Illinois' largest cities.

For every 10,000 residents in the city, there were about 151 property crimes in Naperville, compared to 203 in Elgin and 216 in Aurora.

Among the other cities, Elgin and Joliet's crime rates were similar to Aurora, while Peoria, Rockford and Springfield posted crime rates that were more than twice as high as the other cities in 2010.

Rockford and Springfield reported by far the highest crime rates among the state's largest towns. For every 10,000 Naperville residents, 9 violent crimes were reported. Elgin (33), Aurora (36) and Joliet (36) had the next best rates.

Nationally, violent crime dropped by 5.5 percent and 5.9 percent in the Midwest.

Each year, police agencies are required to report their crime statistics for certain broad categories to the FBI. The statistics are broken down into violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, assaults) and property crimes (burglary, theft, car theft, arson). The FBI releases detailed information on cities with more than 100,000 residents. When the FBI tallies the crimes, they only include the most serious offense in a given incident. So, if someone breaks into a house, rapes someone, then kills them, that would be reported as one crime, a murder.

Naperville Police Chief David Dial said the city's crime rate numbers are no surprise.

"It's pretty consistent with where we have been for a few decades," Dial said.

A big reason why Naperville has less crime than some other cities is the relative lack of gang activity in town.

"We have some pretty good anti-gang progams," Dial said.

According to Dial, Naperville worked hard in the 1980s and early '90s to keep gangs from gaining a foothold in the city when they were gaining ground in other areas around the state.

Dial also said the low crime can be attributed to policing practices in the city that include building partnerships with citizens and groups around town.

"The public has an important part to play in crime prevention," he said.

Naperville Mayor George Pradel agreed.

"We have great residents in Naperville that care about the law," Pradel said.

He noted that many residents participate in anti-crime programs such as Neighborhood Watch and Community Radio Watch to make the city safer.

"It's not just one person, it is the whole community" that makes Naperville's crime rate low when compared to other cities, he said. That's important for a number of reasons, he said. A low crime rates helps encourage development in the city, a big factor while the economy is still struggling.

"One of the first things people look at (when deciding where to move) is to see if it is safe," Pradel said.

What's true of potential residents is also true of prospective businesses looking to make Naperville home.

"Businesses that come in want to know that the community is safe," Pradel said.

Naperville's neighbors to the west, Aurora, are pleased that the crime rate has been going down in their city.

"We still have work to do with our gangs. We still have work to do with our crime. But there's no doubt things are better," said Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas. "The crime we used to have, we don't have any more."

He's proud of the numbers, but more pleased with the harder-to-quantify changes in town. Like the community meetings where residents used to berate officers about the violence in town and now want to know what the police are going to do about parking and noise issues. Or the call an officer got at the front desk from a woman who said she's happy to let her kids play outside again.

"That anecdotal story is probably as worthwhile as the statistics," Thomas said.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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