Naperville cops put crime prevention twist on Kindness Rocks
A woman described as the "nicest person at the Naperville Police Department" came up with an idea that already is spreading kindness across the community -- from the ground up.
Mary Browning, the department's crime prevention specialist, said she read a news article about the Kindness Rocks movement and immediately thought her co-workers might want to get involved.
The movement involves painting small rocks with inspirational messages and placing them outside for others to find in the hope of brightening their day.
"Law enforcement is all about helping people and joining into the community," Browning said. "So I thought, well, maybe we could use it as a team-building exercise."
Police Chief Robert Marshall quickly got on board and approved the idea. So Browning dug up her stash of paints and paintbrushes from her decade as a Cub Scout leader, brought them into work and invited folks from across the department to stop by Wednesday and paint uplifting messages.
Detectives and records specialists, animal control officers and patrol officers -- about 40 in all -- got together and painted roughly 50 rocks with messages like "You Matter," "Faith over Fear" and "Be kind to others."
"For a lunch hour, we all got together and we thought we were doing something worthwhile for the community," Browning said.
Kindness Rocks came to Naperville via Elmhurst and before that, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where the idea apparently began. After Learning Express of Naperville offered a rock-painting event on July 15, it's fitting that Browning brought it to the police department because of her caring personality, Ken Keating said.
Keating, a field training officer, and his trainee, officer Danny McNally, had the day off Wednesday when the painting took place. But they got involved in the movement on Friday by placing four of the decorated stones in visible spots at Wil-O-Way Park.
"I've been working this neighborhood for five years now, and I probably have a pretty good idea of who will find these," Keating said.
A group of four or five big guys who always play basketball at the three hoops on the park's northeast side likely will find the one Keating placed at the foot of a tree near the court, he said.
One of several residents who frequently walk their dogs past the park could easily spot the bright turquoise rock with the message "You are loved, Naperville Police Department 2017" that McNally put near a small tree by the sidewalk.
Families who regularly use the playground at Wil-O-Way might spot the other two, one that says "Be Brave" and another that says "Drive Safe Drive Sober" on one side with a painted image of a squad car on the other.
As a crime prevention specialist, Browning said she couldn't let the chance pass to educate the community about ways to stay safe.
Some of the other rocks, which will be placed along the Riverwalk, in downtown, in Frontier Park on the city's south side and elsewhere, say things like "See Something, Say Something," or "Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Aware."
Keating says he sees the effort as a way to reach out to the community and those who may need help.
"It's an unorthodox and a subtle way," he said, "to let people know they can come to us for help."
So he took a break Friday morning from responding to car crashes or looking for houses with open garage doors or teaching McNally that good officers must be "a safety officer, a crime prevention officer and a recruitment officer" all at once, to place some rocks for others to find.
The police department encourages anyone who encounters one of the Kindness Rocks to let others know what they found. They can choose to keep the rock, leave it, or place it in a different location.
And they can share their brush with kindness on social media using the hashtags #napervillerocks, #kindnessrocksnaperville and #krn.