Editorial: Address violence with vigilant leaders, responsible property owners
Village leaders in Bloomingdale may well be wondering what they could have or should have done to avoid the weekend mayhem that resulted in multiple shootings and one death at the Indian Lakes Hotel.
And they're wise to examine their practices and polices -- and for reacting decisively regarding what Public Safety Director Frank Giammarese described as the scene of a "drastic spike in crime" in recent years.
But they certainly cannot be faulted as having done nothing. They've pressed for years, by the hotel's owners' own description, to try to "ensure the safety and security of all guests and associates of the hotel." And as recently as last December, they imposed fees and restrictions on short-term rental properties -- including a minimum 30-day stay -- following a shooting in neighboring Roselle over the summer in which one person died and six were hurt.
A short-term home rental is no hotel, of course, and the very nature of a hotel or motel complicates the actions a community can take to fend off problems from large parties. Indeed, for weddings, birthday celebrations, conventions and all manner of public events, hotels and banquet halls are important community centers.
The point is that, even so, Bloomingdale has not been blind to the potential for trouble when large gatherings occur. Nor have many other suburbs. In 2016, Lake Barrington passed an ordinance prohibiting rentals of less than three months following a shooting at a rental property in the village. Barrington Hills already had a zoning law in place outlawing parties like the one that led to a fatal shooting there last April. Naperville imposed a short-term rental ban last August, and Roselle imposed strict regulations governing short-term rentals following the fatal shooting at a short-term rental. Even Airbnb itself has announced a global ban restricting rentals to occupancy of no more than 16 people.
So, it is obvious that communities want to get on top of the problem of large groups of people crowding into quiet neighborhoods with events that get tragically out of hand. But it is just as obvious that the problem is not going away anytime soon and has the potential of striking any community or neighborhood in the suburbs. What's not as apparent is what more can be done.
For now, suburbs who haven't done so yet ought at least be following the lead of other towns and examine their zoning and property-management ordinances and play hardball with hotels or motels that have a history of police calls.
The rights of responsible business people must be respected, certainly, and it can't be overlooked that likely thousands of suburban homeowners earn needed extra income through home rentals safely and without incident. But violent nuisance situations are growing ever more common -- and we frequently learn afterward that signs of trouble were plentiful before a case finally reached the point of tragedy. So, towns must be vigilant and property owners and managers must be responsible and accountable.
That's not exactly a comforting, specific prescription for avoiding misfortune, and, as Bloomingdale and other towns can well attest, it sometimes isn't enough. But it's a situation that planners need to be investigating and a conversation communities need to be having.