What’s up with Rockford?

Whitman+Street+Bridge+in+Rockford

Whitman Street Bridge in Rockford

Anna Hulstedt, Reporter

We live just around ten miles from the fifth most dangerous city in America, which always has my parents wondering why we live here. Although Belvidere provides enough amenities to stay, most people can say that they frequently go to Rockford for some reason or another.

Rockford’s crime rate is 1,659 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Listening to news doesn’t seem to involve many good stories or a positive outlook on some aspects of life anymore; news segments are, for the most part, centered around the multitudes of problems and crime within the community.

Rockford wasn’t always dangerous. In the past, Rockford grew quickly as a city, being connected to Geneva. Using railroad systems for transportation of goods, Rockford’s industry grew quickly, especially with furniture. In the first half of the 20th century, Rockford was the second largest furniture manufacturer in the United States.

Also being in a decent agricultural region, Rockford also began to produce machinery for agriculture. Innovation and technological advances led to auto parts and other machinery being made as well. This promised a good economy and an abundance of jobs for immigrants coming to the city.

Rockford continued to grow as more roadways were put up across the country, impacting the setup of the city, which is now divided east and west by the bridge over the Rock River. The west side hasn’t grown much and the majority of crime in Rockford happens in that area.

Rockford’s strength was industrialization and manufacturing, and once the industrial boom leveled out, employment rates decreased and Rockford began to struggle with jobs. The 2008 financial crash in the economy also destroyed the housing market. At one point that year, the poverty rate was above 30 percent, with the unemployment rate reaching 19 percent in 2010.

Rockford’s main problem is the unemployment issue. Without a stable economy and good jobs, people turn to drugs, alcohol, and crime, which, in turn, puts Rockford near the top of the most dangerous cities in America list. When there is an abundance of people unemployed, more people are turning to drugs and alcohol, which worsens the community as a whole and also ruins the individual’s life. The lack of social growth in the community doesn’t help either.

Rockford needs help.

Transform Rockford is a mission geared towards changing Rockford for the better by improving the social and economic well-being of the community and its residents. Their main goal is to be a “top 25 community by 2025”. In 2013, a community meeting was held at the Coronado Theater for anyone to express thoughts and visions for a better Rockford. The ideas were recorded and a general list was made to accomodate for the changes people would like to see in the city of Rockford.

Now, Transform Rockford is implementing their plans and working to improve the city. Specifically, the team is working on building a stronger economy, renewing the people, and funding for the future.

“I think it’s great that people are working on this and making an effort to make things better,” said Paige Lambright (‘20).

Although it seems that the crime situations in Rockford keep growing worse, they are gradually improving even if it doesn’t appear so. If Transform Rockford follows up with its plans and takes action, there is a brighter future on the way for Rockford.

Even though as high schoolers who don’t really live in the fifth most dangerous city in the country, we can still better the world every day by making a difference in our school and community. From volunteering somewhere to just a simple smile, every effort counts to change for the better.