By Isaac Guerrero Staff writer
ROCKFORD – Woman shot while sitting at kitchen table in Rockford home. 1 dead, 1 injured in shooting. 5 homes hit by gunfire.

Headlines like those, posted to our website and plastered on the pages of this newspaper in recent weeks, sound scary. But experts say you shouldn’t confuse fear of crime with the actual risk of crime, which has been declining in Rockford since 2000. Violent crime, however, the stuff that captures headlines, has risen.

All but four of the 32 homicides in Winnebago County last year – the county’s highest homicide tally since 1996 – were in Rockford, where violent crime in 2015 increased 24 percent compared with 2014. The latest statistics from the FBI reveal violent crime increased 6 percent during the first six months of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015.

But is our fear of violent crime greater than our risk of violent crime? Because there’s lots of things in Rockford to be afraid of.

Rockford police reported in 2014 that there were 19 times as many people injured in car accidents – 1,211 – as were injured by gunfire – 104.

There were an average 29 suicides, 634 cancer deaths and 339 deaths attributed to heart disease annually from 2007 through 2011 in Winnebago County, according to Rockford Health Council. There were an average 20 homicides a year in the county during the same five-year period.

“People take risks on the fly every day,” said Kirk Miller, a criminologist and professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University.

“They’ll run through a yellow light, for example, which empirically represents a much larger risk in terms of your physical well-being and others’ well-being. But it’s more acceptable in society to run a yellow light because that doesn’t capture the fear and anxiety of these more dramatic events like a mass shooting or a homicide in an otherwise well-regarded location like a school or an airport or a good neighborhood.”

Source: Weighing fear and danger in Rockford as the city’s violent crime rate rises

  1. So many of my neighbors are frightened of their own streets and of their own downtown. This fear is overemphasized. For instance, take the Rockford attorney murder trial (which begins impaneling jurors on February 21)… Richard Wanke, for whom this website advocates, will have a hard time finding impartial jury members, who are not influenced by the constant talk of Rockford as a murder capital. A paralyzing fear weakens rational decision making. That fear is more dangerous than the violent crimes themselves.


  2. Brandon Sterns says:

    I was friends with Richard Wanke when he was arrested in 2008. I was shocked and have to admit that I stepped back from knowing him because of the police actions and the violent murder. I thought Rockford was too violent even in 2008, and it affected and clouded my judgement about Richard. The Clark murder was a big deal, and I was afraid then of even knowing him, of being dragged into it somehow by police harassing me or even a search warrant because of the hype around it. So I kept quiet and kept away from him. I’ve been afraid to say anything to defend Richard despite knowing and trusting him for over twenty years. I would have trusted my family with him, and even my kids knew and liked him well.

    I’m ashamed of myself now because down deep, I know that I’ve not done well by him just because of my fear which really has had nothing to do with him. My fear is really about the crime I feel building around me and doesn’t equal at all Richard and what I know of him. I especially am ashamed now after reading this blog and what I have heard about this murder over the years. I sincerely hope that he is found innocent at trial. I just don’t see the evidence to show that he killed Clark, or how he could have in 2008. I hope to go to his trial for a day or two to show him that someone from his past still cares. I urge anyone else who has made the same mistake as me to also do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

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