Orland Park Police Chief Joseph Mitchell had good news to report about crime in 2021 except for weapons arrests. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Park Police Chief Joseph Mitchell had good news to report about crime in 2021 except for weapons arrests. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Many crimes down in Orland, but weapons arrests concerning

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By Jeff Vorva

Orland Park Police Chief Joseph Mitchell had mostly good news when revealing the village’s 2021 crime statistics.

But one glaring area that has him bothered is the number of unlawful use of a weapon arrests that have been shooting up. Mitchell and Mayor Keith Pekau attribute it to felons from other towns who should not be on the street coming into the village.

Mitchell gave the village board an update at the Jan. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting and said his officers made 71 firearms arrests in 2021 – one arrest every five days.

In 2019 and 2020, the average arrest per seven days was well below one. In 2021, it ballooned to close to 1.5 per week.

Mitchell said 17 offenders had prior gun arrests or convictions at the time of their arrest. Eight offenders were out on bond on an OPPD weapons arrest and committed new offenses while out on those bonds.

Stolen motor vehicle totals were up slightly from 28 in 2020 to 31 in 2021.

On a positive note, total index crimes – criminal homicide, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft – have gone down 9 percent from 691 to 628.

That number is also the lowest in the past 26 years. The high-water mark was 1,630 in 2011.

Property crimes were down from 666 to 609.

Violent crimes were down from 25 to 19.

Michell credited his staff, state-of-the-art technology, a supportive village board and community engagement as some of the reasons for the positive results.

A Youth Supervision Program at Orland Square Mall implemented in April saw retail theft at that facility go down. There were 265 individuals banned from the mall and 10,542 unaccompanied youth denials from April 1 through Dec. 31.

Honor roll

Several members of the Orland Park Police Department were honored at the meeting.

Investigator Kystina Fitzgibbon was named Officer of the Year for 2021. She deals with juvenile cases, sex assault cases and domestic-related cases.

“She possessed great communication skills and special investigate skills,” OPPD Commander Eric Rossi said. “She is always willing to assist officers and investigators with cases. She will answer the call to assist any time between day and night. She always shows extreme dedication and passion.

“Her cases are extremely complex and sensitive regards minors to the elderly. She spends countless hours working on these difficult cases that result in the arrest of many offenders.”

Glenn Jelley was named Civilian of the Year.

Medals of Valor were presented to officers Paul Goewey, Naser Zayed, Zach Grutzius, Jim Heramb and Matt Mungia.

Officer Chris Pratl earned a Grand Cordon, officers Gordon Przislicki and Angelo Renardo were honored with Life Saving awards and investigators Scott Prieto and Ronald Ahrendt won awards for exceptional service.

Oscar Yanes and Fuad Abdel were given Civilian Service awards.

Men, women and a dog were given unit citations for teamwork.

That list featured officers Michael Benjamin, Grutzius, Nate O’Connor, Kevin Catchings, Jonathan Basinski, Carla Wilson, Przislicki, Tyler Lorek, Rebecca Adamczyk, Goewey, Shawn Walsh, Mark Kenn, TCO William Michalek, K9 officer Joe Zumerling and K9 Maverick.

Kerry Kelly-Valan was promoted to sergeant and was sworn in at the meeting.

Neighborhood Watch program

Continuing with the police theme, the OPPD officially unveiled its new Orland Park Neighborhood Watch program, which was previewed in the Jan. 13 Regional News.

The program is an opportunity for citizens to assist in crime prevention and identification of those responsible for crimes committed in Orland Park by registering outdoor home monitoring cameras with the village.

“This program is great because we are utilizing resources that already exist in the community,” Mitchell said. “So many residents and business owners have approached us to ask how they can help.  This is a great way to partner with the Orland Park Police Department by utilizing cameras to deter and combat local crime.”

Registration is voluntary and can be withdrawn at any time. The Police Department will not have direct access to cameras, nor are registrants obligated to provide video, if asked.

“The Orland Park community has always been helpful in assisting with crime prevention by reporting suspicious activity, making sure their property is secure and by continuously partnering with the police department in an effort to maintain a safe environment,” said Mitchell. “This is just another way to help.”

For more information and to register visit orlandpark.org/watch.

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