Naperville police this summer will test an idea to improve pedestrian safety when bars are letting out, and it involves closing two downtown streets.
The idea is that preventing cars from accessing a one-block section of Jefferson and Jackson avenues around the time bars close will help keep people safe as they walk across streets and find ways home, police Chief Robert Marshall said.
"What concerns us sometimes is when there is a significant number of people out on the roadways walking in the streets," Marshall said. "Right around closing time, we're concerned with pedestrian safety."
Officers assigned to downtown will experiment with closing Jefferson and Jackson between Washington and Main streets to see if it keeps pedestrians safer, as hoped, or snarls traffic elsewhere.
"We're evaluating whether we need to temporarily close some roads in the interest of public safety during the high-activity periods," Marshall said.
Police plan to keep Chicago Avenue open because of a taxi stand there. If closing the stretches of Jefferson and Jackson causes traffic problems, Marshall said officers will reopen the streets.
After testing the closures, Marshall said his department will report to the city council about which hours could be best to block the streets to cars in the future.
Chuck Rizzo, owner of Rizzo's at 6 W. Jefferson, said closing time at 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays or 1 a.m. during the week often results in several hundred people spilling onto downtown sidewalks and streets at the same time.
"Police know what they're doing, so if they think it's going to help, I'm sure it will help," Rizzo said about the street closures. "If this is going to make it easier for them to disperse people, it doesn't bother me."
Plans to test early morning road closures come as Naperville transitions into its summer schedule for downtown patrols, which began last weekend. Marshall said four school resource officers and a sergeant now are joining the two beat cops who normally patrol downtown in responding to all calls for fights or other problems. That will continue until school is back in session in August.