Uptick in violence belies drop in Hyde Park crime

Crime in general is down, though violent crimes like murder and robbery are up.

By Rebecca Guterman

Overall, crime in the Hyde Park-South Kenwood area is down, but violent crime has risen slightly from last year, according to the most recent UCPD figures.

On average, year-to-date reports of crime in the Hyde Park-South Kenwood neighborhood have dropped two percent since 2010, while violent crime has risen four percent from its record low last year.

As of November 16, 181 violent crimes had occurred so far this year in the Hyde Park-South Kenwood area, which extends from West 47th to East 61st Streets and South Cottage Grove Avenue to Lake Michigan. The number of violent crimes is 21 percent lower than the area’s year-to-date average over the past five years.

Incidents of violent crime, which include murder, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated battery and assault, had been decreasing steadily since 1996, hitting a record low last year of 194, according to UCPD reports.

A spate of muggings near or on campus prompted University administrators to hire additional security personnel earlier this year, and just last night a student was mugged at 7:35 p.m. walking down East 57th Street near South Woodlawn Avenue.

In fall quarter of this year, the number of reported electronics and money thefts dropped from 68 to 41, and the number of burglaries fell from 32 to 14.

During fall quarter 2010, UCPD reported that the most common crimes were burglary and thefts of money, wallets, purses, and electronics like cell phones and laptops, according to daily public incident reports.

Bicycle thefts and criminal damage were also two main contributors to crime rates last fall quarter. Criminal damage reports have been cut in half, though bicycle thefts have remained steady this year.

UCPD spokesperson Bob Mason said that the four percent increase is small enough that UCPD remains optimistic about the prospects of local violent crime dropping.

“It has been decreasing at a steady pace, which is encouraging,” Mason said. “We like to remind people also that it’s not just the police departments—it’s cooperation from everybody in the neighborhood and on campus to keep themselves as safe as possible.”

There have also been six murders in the area this year as of November 16, but according to UCPD Chief Marlon Lynch, none were on campus or involving students.

“There has been an increase in gang activity in the northern part of our patrol area, and the southwest,” Lynch said. The UCPD patrol area includes the Hyde Park-South Kenwood area, but also extends north to West 39th Street and south to East 64th Street.

“It’ll calm down,” Mason added. “ flares up for various reasons, inter- or intra-gang problems.”

Despite the increase in violent crime, Mason said that the incidences of property crimes, which include burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft, decreased three percent this year. UCPD reported similar trends last year.