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Article updated: 1/28/2013 11:30 PM

Aldermen say St. Charles taverns still spark too much crime

By James Fuller

With crime reports still piling up, taverns in downtown St. Charles still have a lot to prove despite their recent efforts at self-policing, aldermen said Monday night.

The St. Charles Tavern Association is now about 4 months old. The majority of downtown bar owners created the association following threats about earlier closing times from city officials. The threats following increasing problems with public intoxication, urination and fighting in the streets. The aim of the association is to get the problems under wraps to avoid a more harsh crackdown by aldermen.

But four months into that effort, the results are a cocktail of successes and failures.

On the success side of the ledger, association leader Steve Baginski said there are now about 20 names on a list of banned patrons. Hand stamps are helping police track the source of overserved patrons. And bar employees are well-informed about calling police before incidents escalate out of control.

"We're working with all the other members of the association to make downtown a better place," Baginski said. "I've seen a noticeable calmness. It's not as wild as it's been."

But aldermen said they are still alarmed at the number of police reports generated by in and around the downtown taverns.

"I don't think the owners in the downtown have corrected the overservicing," said Alderman Jim Martin. "You've got a long way to go."

Police Chief Jim Lamkin told aldermen it's true there are still incidents being recorded, but the nature of those incidents have improved. Many of the calls police receive now involve patrons who become unruly after being denied entry at the door or further alcohol service. But some problems with overserved patrons remain, Lamkin said.

To address that, aldermen said they want to investigate a licensing system that rewards downtown tavern owners with the right to stay open until 2 a.m. versus receiving that ability outright with the granting of a license. Naperville may be looked to as a model. Aldermen also want a hard count of police incidents to compare on a quarterly basis to track what changes are working or failing.

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