Oak Brook has agreed to assign one of its police officers to be part of a regional auto theft task force, which Police Chief James Kruger said will allow the village to access task force personnel and resources to help police combat auto theft and better investigate incidents.
The commitment is for four years and could be extended, Kruger said.
He said Oak Brook police have investigated an increased number of vehicle thefts over the past few years. Oak Brook had 17 vehicle thefts reported in 2019, as of Thursday, and had 16 in 2018 and nine in 2017, said Cmdr. Ben Kadolph.
“Communities across Illinois have been experiencing similar concerns, which has prompted the automobile insurance industry to request that the state reinstitute regional auto theft task forces to combat the increase,” Kruger said, noting that Oak Brook was involved with a similar task force about 20 years ago.
Kadolph said Oak Brook generally has two major types of vehicle thefts: high-end vehicles that are stolen while parked at Oakbrook Center and are rarely recovered; and vehicles in residential areas, often with a key fob left inside.
“They’re all unlocked,” Kadolph said. “Along with the help we’ll be able to get from the task force with our investigations, this also will allow us to better have appropriate charges filed for someone when there is an arrest made.”
Kadolph said it’s often more difficult to have appropriate charges filed against a suspect when a vehicle stolen in Oak Brook is found in another county.
“A lot of times, these stolen vehicles are taken to Cook County, and the prosecution lines are gone,” he said.
Kruger said until about five years ago, numerous task forces across Illinois were funded by a $1 fee assessed every auto insurance policy in the state.
“There are funds available to more than support such a task force to start up again,” he said.
The Illinois Secretary of State Police will administer and supervise the task force, which along with its own officers and one from Oak Brook, will have officers from Brookfield, Thornton, Beecher, Chicago, DuPage and Will County sheriff’s police and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Grant funding from the $1 insurance fee provides for complete salary, benefits, health insurance, pension and overtime reimbursement on a monthly basis as well as a vehicle with all maintenance and fuel, Kruger said.
He said Oak Brook is assigning an officer with five years experience, who will train through the remainder of 2019 and officially start work with the task force Jan. 1. That officer will be replaced with a new hire at a lesser salary.
“An analysis by our Finance Department concluded that we would see a nearly $40,000 savings from the reimbursement in the first year,” Kruger said.
He said the extra position is only to be filled for the duration of our task force participation, and otherwise would be eliminated by attrition.
He said task force commanders said it’s their intention that after the first four years, Oak Brook would be able to refill the position with a new officer if the department wants to do so.