All four Monroe County law enforcement agencies were not as busy in 2020, with at least some of that decrease being attributable to the COVID pandemic.
The Waterloo Police Department again had the fewest calls for service among the county’s largest departments with 10,832. That was down from 12,139 calls in 2019, an approximately 11 percent decrease.
“We were thinking our calls would go up, like for domestics and stuff like that,” Waterloo Police Chief Jeff Prosise said. “But, actually, we weren’t seeing a huge increase on the domestic disturbances.”
There were also fewer traffic crashes, with 185 in 2020 compared to 247 in 2019.
The WPD made eight arrests for possession of methamphetamine last year and the same number for possession of a controlled substance. That’s up three and down two from the previous year, respectively.
“Even last year, we could have said heroin and fentanyl are going down. We’re not seeing that as much, and meth is going up,” Prosise said. “It’s probably cheaper and it’s possible it’s more available.”
The other notable increase came in the retail thefts category, as those rose by 10 to 32 in 2020.
Overall, Prosise said he was pleased with his department’s performance given the situation.
“With COVID, we did the best we could,” he said.
“It was a challenging time for everyone. I feel like our officers did a great job fulfilling their mission.”
The Columbia Police Department once again led the county in calls for service, though the margin was much slimmer.
It had 12,403 calls for service, down roughly 14 percent from the 14,423 calls in 2019.
“With COVID shutdowns there was definitely less people going to work, traveling, etc. That decreased the amount of traffic going through Columbia on a daily basis,” Columbia Police Chief Jason Donjon said. “This created less calls for service, tickets and vehicle crashes.”
Vehicle crashes were down 34 percent to 194, and the CPD issued 41 speeding tickets compared to 273 in 2019.
Arrests overall were down about 2 percent, while incident reports were up about 3 percent. Those numbers were at 253 and 739 in 2020, respectively.
Among arrests, the largest categories were warrants and domestic situations, which made up 19 percent of arrests each.
“Domestic battery arrests were up in 2020,” Donjon noted. “With more and more people on lock down and not being able to go out and do what they normally would like to do, this creates more stress on relationships and the average household.”
There were 31 reports of battery in 2020, up from 24 the prior year.
Drug offenses and criminal damage/trespass were tied for the next most common crime at 16 percent.
There were 31 reports and 29 arrests compared to 23 reports and 23 arrests in 2019.
The largest change in that area came as meth reports rose from six to 16 and arrests rose from six to 17.
“Meth is definitely the biggest drug we are seeing in Columbia (excluding cannabis),” Donjon said. “I always described drug trends like a roller coaster. You will see an explosion in certain drugs for a few years, and then they tend to go down and a new drug will rise.”
The CPD also saw a large jump of about 164 percent in identity theft reports, with 58 in 2020 versus 22 the prior year.
Donjon said many of those scams had to do with the pandemic, with the largest being a bogus call related to unemployment.
A specific Columbia concern, vehicle thefts, dropped by a slim margin.
There were 13 reports and one arrest for motor vehicle theft in 2020, while in 2019 those numbers were at 14 and four, respectively.
“The numbers are still too high,” Donjon said. “We are working closely with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police and Metro East Auto Theft Task Force to get those numbers further down. The vast majority of our vehicle thefts and vehicle burglaries are occurring with vehicles that are unlocked. We ask for the community’s help in reporting suspicious behavior and locking their vehicles.”
Donjon said he was “very proud” of the work his department did in 2020, all things considered.
“Everyone knows 2020 was a tough year, and it was definitely a struggle here at CPD also,” he shared. “The members of the police department had to adjust and work through COVID, as did the whole community.”
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department had the second most service calls in the county for 2020. It had 12,369, down about 7 percent from its 2019 total of 13,284.
“We really tried to keep things down in terms of contact with the public for our deputies, and we kept a lot of our jail operations down,” Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said. “We were only accepting significant crimes like violent crimes against a person or felonies.”
The MCSD made four more arrests for possession of meth than it did in 2019, with a total of 39. Thirty-five of those were for under five grams.
It also made 27 arrests for possession of a controlled substance in 2020, up from 23 the previous year.
“Most of (our stats) were pretty similar, but we increased our arrests for controlled substance and methamphetamine, which we have taken a strong approach to,” Rohlfing said. “We’ve been very proactive in measures with that with (Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois) and also our (Aggressive Criminal Enforcement) Unit going out and targeting those individuals who are bringing that into our county. It’s not good that it’s increasing, but it’s good that we’re keeping up with the enforcement action on that.”
Like the CPD, the sheriff’s department had more than triple the number of ID theft reports as in 2019, with 32 cases reported in 2020 compared to nine in 2019.
Rohlfing said the most common scams his department encountered related to unemployment benefits, an issue with a Microsoft account or a child or grandchild being in jail in another state or country and needing bond money.
Even the county’s smallest law enforcement agency, the Valmeyer Police Department, saw a drop in calls for service.
Its calls fell about 41 percent to 674 in 2020 from 1,140 in 2019.
Likewise, its traffic stops dropped to 106 from 251. Criminal arrests were down 10 to 57 in 2020.
“This is due to the COVID situation and conducting less traffic to limit one-on-one contact,” Valmeyer Police Chief Marty Seitz said. “Disturbances and domestics are slightly up from previous year, and I also attribute this to the quarantine and everyone being around one another constantly and the stresses of our current situation.”