DuPage sheriff: Crime increases in unincorporated areas as residents stay home
A spike in domestic incidents, car burglaries and other crimes in unincorporated parts of DuPage County is an unintended consequence of the statewide order to stay at home, the sheriff said Thursday.
DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick says his office received 12,914 calls for service between March 8 and May 25, which is a 43% increase compared to the same time last year. That's placed "a very heavy burden" on the deputies who patrol the county's unincorporated areas, he said.
Mendrick said he believes the surge in calls is tied to the stay-at-home order Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued March 20 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"It is an unintended consequence," Mendrick said. "It is simply a byproduct of containing people in place for very long a period of time."
He said being locked down has a psychological effect on people -- "It doesn't matter if you're behind bars or behind an oak door." The number of domestic incidents in unincorporated areas more than doubled compared to last year. Deputies responded to 218 domestic incidents between March 8 and May 25.
There's also been an increase in the use of the office's post-crisis response team, which pairs a deputy sheriff and a mental-health technician. The team offers support services after a domestic incident in which no one is arrested.
The team followed up on 23 calls between March 8 and May 25, 2019. It responded to 106 calls during that same time period this year.
Mendrick said there's also been a significant increase in drug overdoses because it's harder for people to attend in-person meetings and drug counseling sessions.
Seven overdoses were reported in unincorporated DuPage County between March 8 and May 25, 2019. There were 35 overdoses during the same period this year.
"That is showing a pattern of behavior that is connected to the duration of this lockdown," said Mendrick, adding a "key component" of therapy has been removed.
There's also been a rise in the number of residential burglaries, car burglaries and thefts. For example, Mendrick said his office responded to 13 car burglaries between March 8 and May 25, 2019. There were 88 during that time frame this year.
Meanwhile, the office has investigated 74 social distancing complaints during the stay-at-home order. But Mendrick stressed deputies didn't need to force anyone to comply.
"We've had full compliance," he said.
Still, he said he would like to see DuPage County responsibly reopen "as soon as possible."