File Photo – Crystal Lake Park District Police | Photo: Inventorchris / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)

A board voted Thursday to not disband the Crystal Lake Park District Police Department, which is the only park district in McHenry County to have a police force.

The Crystal Lake Park District Board discussed disbanding the Crystal Lake Park District Police over the past several months, since at least August, according to board documents.

The department was established in 1924 and covers 1,400 acres of land across 42 properties. Superintendent Erik Jakubowski said the police department is a “part of the DNA of the district.”

According to the department’s mission statement, park district police aim “to be conservators of the peace and protectors of the life and well-being of all patrons, citizens and park district property.”

“We will do this by providing service, reducing fear of crime, and relentlessly pursuing those engaged in criminal behavior through unwavering dedication, courage, integrity and ethical treatment of all we serve,” the mission statement says.

The Crystal Lake Park District Police Department is one of less than 20 park police departments to exist in Illinois. It is the only park police department to exist in McHenry County.

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Park district documents show the police force’s budget has increased over the past several years.

For fiscal years 2021-2022, it had a budget of $245,049. The budget increased to $287,064 for fiscal years 2022-2023.

That number jumped this year to $435,495, in part due to body-worn camera purchases. The budget for 2024-2025 is projected to decrease to $333,000.

The board began researching the topic of disbanding the police force in an effort to save money as some tasks performed by the officers are a duplicate of municipal police officers.

Documents show board members decided they would make the decision themselves and not place the issue on a referendum for voters to decide.

Crystal Lake Park District Executive Director Jason Herbster said in a memo to the board late last month that multiple budget models have been developed to account for the hiring of a private security firm or in-house part-time security staff should the police department be disbanded.

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Those options ranged from $98,776-$323,560 a year depending on a variety of factors.

The board met Thursday evening and discussed the topic.

Several residents attended the hearing and voiced their opinions, some of which were in support of disbanding the department and others who sought to keep the department.

The board ultimately voted 4-2 to keep the police department.