In past years Naperville police would be lucky to draw a dozen citizens to a presentation about drugs in the city.
Seven drug-related deaths in 2011 and the recent arrest of a 17-year-old Naperville high school student for selling heroin in a parking lot near Route 59 and 75th Street appear to have opened some eyes and ears to the topic.
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More than 300 people packed the conference room at Naperville's 95th Street Library Monday night, leaving hundreds more in the halls and eventually prompting officials to host a second session later in the evening.
Naperville detectives Mike Umbenhower and Shaun Ferguson and drug and addictions counselor Kimberly Groll pleaded with the audience of mostly parents and local school district administrators to be proactive, get to know their children's friends. check in on their Facebook pages and most importantly, report drug-related crimes.
About 90 percent of the city's crime can be traced back to drugs. And every drug arrest nets police half a dozen new heroin users to contact. Ferguson said police get a lot of drug arrests on the north side at local businesses and hotels but, "ground zero is on the south side of town for heroin."
"There's way too many of you and far too few of us. We need your help," Ferguson said. "It takes a family to raise a child. It takes a village to help that family raise that child."
Some had to leave the room for the more graphic part of the presentation when Ferguson displayed photos of heroin death and overdose scenes.
"That's somebody's baby on somebody's knee. Somebody watched that kid walk across the graduation stage. Someone watched him walk for the first time," Ferguson said of a slide showing a young man who made it to the hospital but later died. "And all of this could have been prevented. This affects everyone, prince or pauper in this town."
Groll told parents they stand a fighting chance in the war on drugs in their hometown if they all left the presentation and talked to their children about information they learned. "Love and communication are essential," she said.
Leaving Monday's presentation, Naperville resident Christie Volk said she intends to do just that with her young son and daughter who attended the meeting with her.
"This was really good," she said clutching her folder of take home information. "We're going to go home, look through this folder with their daddy and talk about it. I'm convinced talking to them now and staying on them is the best way to not have to deal with these issues in our home."