5 crime categories show decrease in downtown Naperville

Naperville police have released the first quarterly downtown crime report since city council members imposed new regulations to calm night life rowdiness.

The results, police and liquor commission members say, show progress is being made after regulations about beer sizes, shot sales, drink specials, late-night bar entry and security training went into effect.

“It's early, but the indications are that we're going in the right direction,” Scott Wehrli, a liquor commission member, said.

The quarterly report covers September through November 2014 and shows decreases in five of the 10 types of offenses the city council told police to track: DUI; assault, battery or fighting; resisting arrest, interfering with or obstructing police officers; criminal damage to property; and battery to bar employees.

DUIs in the downtown decreased to seven during the three-month period in 2014, down from 10 in the same span in 2013. Crimes reported in the assault/battery/fighting category decreased to seven from 20, and those reported in the resisting/interfering/obstructing category dropped to three from nine.

In September through November 2014, there were no reports of criminal damage to property, compared with one in 2013, and police recorded one report of battery to a bar employee last year, compared with six in 2013.

Mayor George Pradel said downtown bar operators are collaborating to make positive changes after a couple of concerning events last summer — a fatal car crash into a water-filled quarry near downtown and a large fight in the middle of Washington Street.

“The downtown, I feel, is becoming a team,” Pradel said. “They're teaming up with the police department; they're teaming up with the city hall; they're teaming up with the liquor commissioners; they're teaming up with the chamber of commerce. It's becoming an answer to our problem.”

Pradel and police Chief Robert Marshall praised the Restaurant Association of Naperville for its efforts to increase communication among bar operators. A move to use a group messaging smartphone application has helped bar employees share information to ensure those who already are intoxicated or causing problems are not admitted to multiple venues.

“It's definitely increased the communication among the different establishments with regard to problem-solving,” Marshall said.

Of the regulations enacted in September and October by the city council, Marshall and Pradel said prohibiting entry or re-entry into bars within one hour of closing time has created the biggest positive effect.

“It seems like the crowds dissipate a lot easier and earlier,” Pradel said.

While officials said they saw progress in the first downtown crime report, it also showed increases in two categories — public urination and ambulance calls from liquor establishments — and no change in the frequency of disorderly conduct arrests or liquor code violations.

The last category included in the analysis — the amount of workers' compensation claims by city employees related to liquor enforcement — was tracked for the first time, but no claims were recorded.

From September to November 2014, there were 12 reports of public urination, up from seven during that span in 2013, and the fire department tallied seven ambulance calls from downtown bars in 2014, up from five in 2013.

Downtown crime reports will become more telling as information from each season is recorded, Marshall said.

“It will provide us a good measure on the effectiveness of the new regulations,” he said.

Liquor commission members said they expect to see continued improvements in night-life safety.

“Everyone wants the same thing,” Wehrli said. “They want a good place to have a good time and a safe place to have a good time, and we've got everybody working toward that.”

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