Naperville to explore solutions for curbing 'disruptive vehicle behavior'

Crimes involving excessive speeding, loud mufflers, street racing and fleeing from police are on the rise in Naperville, prompting authorities to explore a series of solutions.

Trends of "disruptive vehicle behavior" have been escalating since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, largely downtown, in parking decks and along Aurora Avenue, Police Chief Robert Marshall told the city council Wednesday. Last summer, police made about 500 traffic stops downtown and issued 280 tickets for loud mufflers, he said. In the first three months of this year, officers made 6,918 stops citywide, 386 downtown and 52 on Aurora Avenue, many of which involved street racing and resulted in citations or warnings.

Officers also have noticed a spike in ATVs, dirt bikes and other unlicensed vehicles on public roads and their drivers violating traffic control signs, Marshall said.

Of even greater concern is the "tremendous increase" in fleeing or eluding, he said. In 2020, 48 people fled from officers who were trying to make lawful traffic stops, compared to a previous four-year annual average of 19. Seventeen drivers have fled from police so far this year.

"Police presence and strict enforcement efforts alone have not been completely effective at curtailing this type of driving behavior that's very disruptive to our residents, as well as our downtown," Marshall said. "Quite simply, these violators have no fear for the current consequences."

A few residents expressed concerns over the traffic-related disturbances during Wednesday's council meeting, urging city leaders to implement effective solutions.

The issues aren't unique to Naperville, said Marshall, who recently attended a roundtable with other chiefs reporting similar trends and exploring best practices for curbing the behavior statewide.

Naperville officers plan to start tracking down, towing and impounding vehicles involved in class A misdemeanors, such as fleeing a traffic stop - a consequence already permitted under city ordinance but not frequently put into practice, he said. The penalty comes with a $300 towing fee, though Marshall said he would like to see the cost increased to at least $500.

City officials also intend to move forward with installing speed bumps in parking garages and along various downtown streets to prevent speeding and dangerous activity, City Manager Doug Krieger said.

Marshall plans to work with the city's legal counsel and staff members to discuss other "innovative strategies and techniques," which he said could include additional technology or camera use, spike strips, a marketing and social media campaign, the closure of certain streets or top-level parking decks, and a more aggressive fine and penalty structure for repeat traffic offenders.

A list of options is expected to be brought back to the council later this month.

"Our residents and our businesses are suffering because of this behavior," Marshall said. "This has to be a collaborative effort. This cannot just be policing and enforcement because enforcement hasn't solved the problem."

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