Orland Park Mayor Says Crime at Lowest in Nearly Three Decades

In his bid for Congress, Mayor Keith Pekau is touting the downward turn in reported crimes during his tenure. While the reported statistics bear him out, there was a spike in violent crime his first year in office.

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau | Village of Orland Park, Illinois YouTube

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau claims the village’s crime is the lowest it has been in 27 years.

Since Pekau first announced his GOP bid last year for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District, he has repeatedly touted Orland Park’s low crime numbers.

“We’ve reduced crime to its lowest level in 27 years,” Pekau said in a recent Facebook campaign ad with more than 88,000 views.

So we decided to check.

One of Pekau’s campaign spokesman said the mayor was referring specifically to index crimes, which include larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, homicide, burglary, rape, aggravated assault, robbery and arson. These crimes are reported to the FBI to create their annual crime index. Illinois includes human trafficking in their list of index crimes.

When asked for evidence to back Pekau’s claim, the spokesman sent a presentation former Orland Park Police Chief Joe Mitchell gave to the Village Board during a meeting earlier this year. The chief showed the board a chart showing the number of crimes each year from 1996 through 2021. In 1996, there were 1,295 index crimes reported, compared to 628 in 2021.

We also checked the chief’s numbers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which collects crime statistics data from law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. The chief’s numbers match, at least through 2020. The village’s 628 reported crimes in 2021 have not yet been officially reported by the FBI. Never in the past 27 years have there been fewer reported crimes in Orland Park, the statistics show.

Mitchell told the board he credited his police force, new technology and community engagement for the downward trend.Mitchell also said a “crucial” tool has been a stepped up social media campaign called, “Wanted Wednesdays” in which the community is asked to help track down suspects.

The report showed crime generally fluctuated over 25 years, including a spike in violent crime in 2017 — the year Pekau took office. The 35 reported violent crimes in 2017 was more than in any other year between 2012 and 2021, according to statistics provided by the police department.

Former Orland Park Police Chief Joe Mitchell presented to the Orland Park Village Board earlier this year a graph outlining crime statistics.

We also reached out to Orland Park Police to determine whether any changes in police tactics or policies may have contributed to the downturn of reported crimes, but our phone messages were not returned.

Just because reported crimes are down in Orland Park, that doesn’t mean there is no crime problem. Consider the Orland Square Mall, which continues to be the “busiest beat” for criminal related offenses according to the most recent OPD annual report.

After several instances of shoplifting and brawls — some of which included gunfire, the mall owner Simon Property Group, Inc. implemented a first-ever curfew last year. After 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, anyone younger than 18 must now be accompanied by an adult.

Our Ruling

Pekau claims crime in Orland Park is at its lowest level in 27 years. Index crimes are currently at their lowest, but the crime problems in some areas remain. Pekau also did not mention the high number of violent crimes reported in 2017, the year he took office.

We rate this claim True.

TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

Sources

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