How Naperville-area police are teaming up to help prevent suicides

Not long after a neighbor died by suicide in a DuPage County forest preserve last year, Naperville Park District police Officer Tom Wronski walked into his chief's office with an idea.

“He came to me and said, ‘What do you think about us trying to focus on some of the more obscure areas in the district, and see if we can identify somebody that might be in crisis and intervene, and hopefully interrupt any idea of them doing anything to hurt themselves?'” Chief Steve Schindlbeck recalled.

From that suggestion was born Operation Disrupt, a multiagency effort aimed at preventing suicides in Naperville-area parks and preserves, and getting help to those who need it.

“The number of mental health calls that come in on a daily basis is higher than anything I've ever seen in my entire career, and I'm in my 34th year of doing this,” said Schindlbeck, who served as a patrol commander for the Naperville Police Department before joining the park district force. “So, especially in the face of COVID, this has become one of the most common (issues) that we deal with and we want to make sure we're a resource.”

Joining the park district police in the new initiative are the City of Naperville, the DuPage and Will County forest preserve districts, and Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

Operation Disrupt will address the issue from multiple angles — from added patrols in secluded areas where suicides have occurred to training officers in crisis intervention techniques they can use if they come across a person in need.

“The goal is to empower our officers with the training they need to assist somebody in crisis,” Schindlbeck said. “And along the way, we're going to be checking some of the more obscure areas that maybe we haven't been a presence in before.”

The departments also will install signs at select parks and forest preserves that indicate the locations are being patrolled and display the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, text line and website. The first two signs — of 12 planned — will be installed at the DuPage River Sports Complex and the Millennium Carillon, both sites of suicides over the past two years.

Operation Disrupt was developed in partnership with Jerome Kaul, a lead clinical therapist at Naperville-based Linden Oaks.

“Suicide and deaths of despair are at epidemic levels across the United States right now,” Kaul said in an announcement of the program. “It is vitally important that the mental health profession partner with law enforcement, park districts and forest preserve districts on practical measures that can be taken to disrupt suicide attempts and save lives.”

Broken heart, broken bank

Romance isn't just for the young. Neither, it seems, are romance scams.

According to a new report by the website NiceRx, there have been more 6,000 cases of romance fraud reported by Americans over 60 since 2020, resulting in more than $280 million in losses.

The most common romance fraud involves someone using a false identity online to lure someone into a relationship — the kids call it catfishing — gaining the victim's trust and then asking for financial assistance. Scammers also have been known to seek compromising photos of their victims and then use them for extortion.

How can you avoid having your bank broken along with your heart? Here are some tips from the FBI:

• Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.

• Research the person's photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or details have been used elsewhere.

• Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.

• Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.

• Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can't. If you haven't met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.

• Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

Dancing to a DUI

Actor/dancer Gene Kelly famously sang “Gotta dance! Gotta dance! Gotta dance!” in the movie “Singin' in the Rain.”

A 37-year-old woman couldn't help herself from heeding that call during sobriety testing Feb. 21, the Kane County sheriff's office reports.

A deputy reported that the woman danced her way through a drunken driving investigation on Route 64 west of St. Charles. She danced when he informed her he was going to have her perform sobriety tests. She danced during the walk-and-turn test. She danced during the one-legged stand. She told the deputy the tests were “fun” and that the experience was “cool.”

Apparently, the deputy was unimpressed with her moves. The woman was arrested and charged with DUI.

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  The Naperville Park District Police has partnered with the city's police department, as well as the DuPage and Will county forest preserve districts, on a suicide prevention effort called Operation Disrupt. Brian Hill/
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