The Early Years
The McHenry County Conservation District Police Department was founded in 1986. The purpose was, and still is, to provide a safer environment for site users. The Police Department was originally staffed by all part-time officers, except for the Police Chief. As the Conservation District grew, so did the Police Department. In 1997 the McHenry County Conservation District Police Department went to all full-time police officers.
From Past to Present
Prior to 1986 and the creation of a District Police Department, the population of the county and the size of the Conservation District holdings were steadily increasing. Within the 12 sites already open to the public there was a growing problem of vandalism. The public that did use the sites complained that more kids were hanging out partying and drinking, creating a less than family friendly atmosphere. Site rangers did maintenance during the week but weren’t accessible to the public on weekends. The McHenry County Sheriff’s Department was hired to do a quick drive through the sites and close gates. But the vandalism, such as burned picnic tables and trashed display cases, was getting expensive and time-consuming to repair. In addition, there was an increase of poaching on District sites. Rangers would patrol the closed sites unarmed. They had radios to call the Sheriff’s Department who would their best to help out when they could. The District’s 12 open sites were riddled with gang activity, punks, underage drinking, and drug dealers. This presence of undesirable behavior, specifically at sites like The Hollows and Hickory Grove Highlands, was intimidating and not at all an atmosphere a family or individual would feel safe entering.
Since then, the Conservation District Police Department has turned the corner on crime within District managed sites. Through diligent patrols, visibility to the public, constant presence, and immediate attention to hot spots and problem areas have resulted in deterring criminals and sending a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated on Conservation District sites.
Today, the Conservation District Police Department protects and serves the District’s site users along with protecting any and all natural resources, property and infrastructure the District owns or manages. Traversing 603 square miles across a thriving, diverse county, 54 sites of preserved wildlife and wide open spaces exist under the care and watchful protection of the McHenry County Conservation District Police Department. These sites now have a long-standing history of being safe and are welcoming, relaxing places for residents to enjoy outdoor activities.
The Police Department operates from the Brookdale Administrative Offices in Woodstock. One satellite facility is located at Glacial Park and is used for equipment and evidence/found property storage. The Police Department consists of 14 full-time employees, including eight Officers, four Sergeants, an Administrative Assistant, and a Chief. Officers are on duty seven days a week, including most holidays.