Austin’s 15th District recorded fewer total crimes in 2005 than in the previous year, according to figures released by Chicago Police Monday, which shows overall crime in the city down from 2004.

A total of 652 total crimes were reported in Austin in 2005, down from 671 crimes reported in 2004. Homicides, robberies, aggravated assaults, thefts and arsons were all down in 2005.

The 15th District did see increases in criminal sexual assaults, aggravated batteries, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts from 2004.

Overall, crime in the city dropped 6.7 percent from 2004 to 2005. Citywide crime figures were released Monday.

The Chicago Police wrapped up 2005 with several crime sweeps in hot spot areas, including Austin. On Dec. 10, the city’s traffic section conducted a DUI traffic patrol in Austin. A total of 190 violations were reported.

And before Austin could ring in the New Year, nearly two-dozen crimes were reported in the 15th District on Dec. 30, according to Chicagocrime.org.

Still a busy year for 15th Dist.

The 15th District police had a busy year in 2005, but no busier than other years, according to Cmdr. Al Wysinger. Austin and other West Side communities have seen so-called “private clubs” sprouting up over the last few years.

“They pop up overnight,” Wysinger said. “They’re selling alcohol without a license and in some cases are charging admission.”

15th District police shut down clubs at 4825 W. Chicago Ave and 5859 W. Chicago Ave. At least a half dozen more are under investigation.

Police citywide have targeted such clubs that usually operate without a liquor license and are in violation of a number of fire and occupancy city codes. Such clubs attract large crowds, usually late at night. A West Side man was shot and killed outside a club at 815 S. California after an argument occurred with patrons one early January morning.

Wysinger said district officers are being trained to spot suspicious activities, such as large crowds gathering in the wee hours of the morning.

The 15th District has also seen a change in drug activity, namely the practice of “switching dealers” by gangs in Austin and other communities. Because dealers are sometimes known in the community by both police and residents, gang members are going into other communities to do their business.

“The criminal mind is constantly evolving,” said Wysinger. “They’re going outside of the community. We know who they are because we see them in the community. So they’re bringing in dealers from other communities, and they, in turn, go sell in those communities. It’s pretty sophisticated. But it also shows that our efforts are working in identifying them and what they’re doing.”

Wysinger said districts are sharing information on roving drug dealers. To further combat gang and drug activity near schools, the district has stepped up patrols around schools with high crime activity. At Frederick Douglass Academy, 543 N. Waller, two full-time officers are present. Officers are deployed in rotation at other schools, including Austin High School.

All of these efforts and others by local and city officers in 2005 have helped make communities such as Austin safer for residents, Wysinger said.

“People are fed up,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘This is our community.’ Everyone is just heading in the same direction to make Austin one of the safest communities in Chicago.”

Austin crime comparisons, 2004-2005

Austin's reported crimes in 2004 and 2005 in the 15th District:

Crime 2004/2005
Homicide 3/1
Criminal Sexual Assault 9/13
Robbery 109/105
Aggravated Assault 36/33
Aggravated Battery 54/56
Burglary 74/91
Theft 297/258
Motor Vehicle Theft 81/91
Arson 8/4