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Deadly violent crimes up slightly in Lake County last year.

Byline: Lee Filas

Deadly violent crimes up slightly in Lake County last year

The number of deadly violent crimes grew slightly in Lake County in 2017, statistics from the Lake County coroner's office show.

However, a 2017 push to address distracted driving seems to have led to a decrease in vehicle-related deaths, and resulted in a decline in the overall number of homicides recorded in the county last year.

"I think word has gotten out that driving while using a cellphone is dangerous," Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said. "I think people are realizing that texting while driving or looking at Facebook or something is a recipe for disaster."

A homicide is legally defined as one person causing the death of another, officials said. A criminal homicide is a homicide committed by a person with a criminal intent.

There were 16 homicides recorded in Lake County in 2017, Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper said. Of that number, 11 were violent crimes involving a weapon and five were the result of vehicle accidents.

There were 25 homicides in Lake County in 2016, 20 in 2015 and 27 in 2014. Crashes resulting in homicides rose from five in 2015 to 11 in 2016, coroner's office figures show.

Cooper said the 2017 numbers could change slightly because his office is reviewing 63 open cases where the final cause of death has not been determined. Fewer than 10 of those cases could affect the 2017 homicide numbers when they are wrapped up in the coming months, Cooper estimates.

One of those open cases is the Oct. 21 death of 30-year-old Fabian J. Cortez-Milan of Zion. Jasperin F. Melendez, 19, of Waukegan, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder alleging he shot Cortez-Milan in unincorporated Lake County near Grayslake. But Cortez-Milan does not appear on the homicide list because an official cause of death remains under investigation, Cooper said.

The homicide rate also does not reflect when a violent crime takes place in Lake County but leads to a death in another county, Cooper said.

Jamie Jones, 29, faces 12 counts of first-degree murder alleging she killed her 6-year-old son, Carl Rice Jr., in her Round Lake Beach apartment overnight between June 30 and July 1. Police said Jones carried her son onto a Metra train and traveled to Chicago, where the child's death was reported. As a result, that case is a homicide statistic in Cook County, Cooper said.

Of the 25 homicides in 2016, 11 involved vehicles, 10 involved guns or other violent means and four were drug-induced.

Of the county's 10 violent homicides in 2016, three were police-involved shootings later deemed justified. There were no police-involved homicides in 2017.

"The latest numbers show homicides are trending downward, which is a positive sign, but these numbers are still too high," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said.

"I believe law enforcement, through community policing and effective investigation of crimes, will continue to reduce these numbers further in years to come."

Curran said the addition of specialized police groups -- such as the Lake County Sheriff's Gang Task Force -- should help reduce violent crime in the county. One of the roles of the gang task force is to get guns and narcotics off the streets.

"There is no street gang member selling narcotics that does not protect their stash or their money with a gun," Curran said. "Could the number of violent crimes be lower? Sure. But look at where we live ... we are going to make sure what is happening in Chicago doesn't happen here."
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Feb 5, 2018
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