4 reasons Naperville's drinking-related crime is decreasing
The number of fights and unruly people resisting police officers has steadily declined in downtown Naperville in the nine months since authorities began tracking drinking-related crime in the central business district.
Reports of fighting and resisting have decreased over the previous year in each of three quarterly reports released since the city council added regulations on late-night bar entry, beer sizes, shot sales, drink specials and security training last fall, police said.
"It certainly appears we're going in the right direction" since the changes were made to calm a downtown night scene that had been the site of a large brawl, a fatal stabbing and a fatal DUI crash in recent years, liquor commissioner Scott Wehrli said.
The most recent report covers March through May and shows decreases in six of 10 crime categories when compared to the same months last year.
Decreases were recorded in assault, battery and fighting; resisting arrest or obstructing or interfering with an officer; DUI; public urination; battery to bar employees; and ambulance calls from liquor establishments.
Disorderly conduct was the only type of crime that increased compared to 2014, going from zero reports to four. The other categories police are watching -- criminal damage to property, liquor code violations and city workers' compensation claims related to liquor offenses -- remained at zero.
Police, bar owners and liquor commissioners admit the cool and rainy spring weather has helped keep crime rates low.
"The true indication will be once the summer months have concluded," Chief Robert Marshall said. "(But) the preliminary data we're seeing in June is consistent with what we've seen March through May."
Four other factors seem to be contributing to fewer fights and drinking-related disruptions downtown.
Marshall and Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico say the fact bars no longer allow anyone to enter within one hour of closing is helping clear the downtown of congestion that made the environment ripe for fights.
The regulation prohibits people from barhopping in the last hour and leads them to disperse more slowly.
"What we're finding was a large percentage of the fights were occurring in the taxi lines," Chirico said. "Once we had that more even flow of people leaving the bars because of no re-entry, people were able to get the taxis. It's just so much more of an orderly process."
Bar managers have been using a group messaging app to warn each other about anyone who causes problems. Jim Bergeron, owner of Wise Boxer Pour House, said sharing reports of problematic customers is helping set an expectation of peaceful behavior.
"What I really think is helping more is the communication between the restaurant owners and their security staffs downtown on a nightly basis," Bergeron said. "That's helping curtail the inappropriate behavior."
Limits on shots
Liquor regulations approved last October forbid bars throughout Naperville from serving shots one hour prior to closing time, making a "last call" for shots or allowing drink promoters to encourage customers to buy shots.
Marshall said this creates a calming effect because people can't "consume massive quantities of alcohol" right before being let out onto the streets when bars close.
Downtown leaders say it all comes down to creating a culture for the night scene, one that doesn't tolerate rowdiness and illegal behavior.
Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, said collaboration among bar owners, patrons, the city council and police to create that culture is paying off.
"We're setting the standard downtown," Bergeron said, "that you have to behave yourself or else you have to go home."