Downtown fights down, DUIs up in Naperville
Crime has dropped over the past year in downtown Naperville, authorities say, with declines in fighting and cases of offenders resisting arrest or interfering with or obstructing police officers.
"We have seen continually less and less crime pressure in the downtown area," Mayor Steve Chirico said in the wake of a new crime report focused on downtown.
The numbers of crimes in categories of fighting and resisting arrest decreased in each of four quarterly reports issued since the city council last year enacted new regulations on beer sizes, shot sales, drink specials, late-night bar entry and security training.
"It looks to me from the numbers I've seen that it's been quite successful," said former council member Joseph McElroy, who pushed for tighter restrictions after two young men died when a car crashed into a water-filled quarry and a large fight sprawled from the sidewalk to a major downtown street.
Police and city officials who approved the rule changes say they're happy with the results, the most recent of which show the number of fights in June, July and August decreased from 16 in 2014 to five in 2015 and the number of reports of people resisting arrest or interfering with or obstructing officers decreased from 11 to four.
Other categories that showed decreases when comparing this summer to last include public urination, liquor code violations, and battery or assault to bar employees.
"It's amazing the change, really," Deputy Police Chief Brian Cunningham said.
One category -- DUIs -- showed a significant increase, from eight reports last June through August to 18 this year, while the number of disorderly conduct violations increased from zero to one. Rounding out the 10 categories tracked in each downtown crime report, two remained the same -- the number of ambulance calls from bars remained at four, and criminal damage to property remained at zero -- while no workers' compensation claims were reported because of liquor-related problems.
Cunningham said the increase in DUI arrests likely occurred because officers this summer had more time to patrol by car.
"We spent the last few years not doing any DUI patrol down there at all because we were dealing with all the fights and disorderly conduct and were out on foot," Cunningham said. "We didn't have the resources to do DUI enforcement the last few years. Now we're back moving around and more mobile."
Of the five new rules the council imposed on liquor license holders citywide last fall, officials point to the restriction on re-entry to any bar after one hour before closing time as the most effective in decreasing fights.
Cunningham said the rule means drinkers can't hop from bar to bar at last call, scoring one more drink at each establishment. It also allows people to exit more gradually, keeping bar-packed streets like Chicago Avenue and Jefferson Street more open to avoid fights started in jostling crowds.
"What's happening is instead of this huge throng of people descending on the streets all at once, the crowd seems to dissipate over several hours, which is exactly what we hoped would happen," McElroy said. "I'm really happy with how things are turning out."
Nancy Quigley, owner of Quigley's Irish Pub, said her bar already prohibited re-entry an hour before closing time, even before it was required in the liquor code. She said removal of the two bars that were at the root of most rowdiness problems -- Rizzo's and BlackFinn American Saloon -- has helped more than any rules on late-night entry or drink sizes.
"They were causing most of the problems," Quigley said about Rizzo's, which closed when a fire struck in July 2014 a month after renovations were completed, and BlackFinn, which was replaced in May 2013 with the Wise Boxer Pour House. "Since they've gone, things have really calmed down."
During the summer, police deployed school resource officers to the downtown to add extra patrols, as they have the past few years. But this fall, when the department usually sends officers on overtime to the area on Friday and Saturday nights, Cunningham and Chirico said no extra patrols were needed.
"We said everything is so under control down there, we're not going to spend the extra money doing it," Chirico said. "It's a really great trend we're seeing."