All of the final numbers aren’t in for the year, but Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said Wednesday that crime was generally down in the county for 2012.
“I think the year was rather benign,” he said. “We are very fortunate to be living where we are.”
The number of crimes committed in the county are generally down in all areas except for the area of crime against property, which include thefts and burglaries.
Another area that saw a large increase was in the area of fatal traffic accidents, but Thompson said those were not crime-related, but rather most of them were the result of not wearing seat belts or the use of alcohol.
Thompson said the lower crime rate can be seen in the Bureau County Jail population, which is down compared to years past. Thompson said the average jail population had been about 26 or 27 inmates. This year the average population was only 20 inmates.
Ironically, Thompson said the poor economy deserves part of the credit for the lower crime rate. People don’t have the money to socialize, and they’re not spending money, which would make them attractive targets for crime.
Credit for the lower crime rate also belongs to area law enforcement officers.
“They’re trying very hard to keep us safe,” Thompson said.
But while crime numbers are generally down, Thompson said law enforcement is not making enough of an impact on reducing drug usage or overdoses.
Thompson said the problem on the street is with heroin and other potentially fatal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines.
“We have to find another means to fight,” he said.
Thompson said most heroin is not made in the United States, so it is partially a port of entry problem. There’s not a lot local residents can do about that other than to lobby for tighter inspections on imports.
There has been an impact on methamphetamines on the state and federal levels. Thompson said Illinois legislators passed laws to make it more difficult to get the components. Today, if someone buys 500 antihistamine tablets — a key component in the manufacture of methamphetamine, the sheriff’s department is notified. Officers can investigate the purchase and make an arrest if necessary.
However, again much of the problem begins out of the country, in part due to Mexican cartels.
Thompson said it’s not illegal in Mexico to buy that quantity of antihistamines, so the cartels produce the drug in Mexico and ship to the United States in covered containers.
In addition, the drug manufacturers have created a new way to entice buyers by coloring the methamphetamine pink or blue, and adding a name that makes it more appealing to buyers.
Thompson said the local manufacture of methamphetamines isn’t as prevalent as it’s been in the past, but it’s still going on. He said he is still concerned to see the anhydrous ammonia — another key component in the manufacture of methamphetamine — tanks sitting unguarded in area fields. Despite the locks on the tanks, he said drug makers are still finding a way to steal it.
Another problem with dealing with drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines is difficult because of the smallness of the county. Law enforcement officials might be aware drugs are being dealt, but it’s hard to infiltrate the market because the dealers know who the law enforcement agents are.
Looking ahead to the coming year, Thompson said he’s expecting crime to increase in the area of personal property crimes such as thefts and burglaries.
“People who can’t, or don’t want to survive, are doing it by taking from those of us who have things,” he said.
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