Why Naperville is seeing a decline in number of DUI arrests

 
 
Updated 1/10/2019 4:19 PM

Drunken driving arrests largely have been declining for the past five years in Naperville, according to police statistics.

The decreases, police and liquor enforcement officials say, have come despite an increase in the number of restaurants in town -- from 255 to 320 -- offering many more places where drinking away from home is possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cultural shifts to more use of ride-sharing services and greater awareness of the dangers of driving while impaired could be leading to the change, said Detective Dan Riggs, the police department's liquor enforcement officer.

"I think that has a lot to do with it," Riggs said about the use of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and even a newer mode of transportation in downtown Naperville called a Tuk Tuk shuttle. "It's just easier to get a ride home."

With that ease of travel has come a decrease in DUI arrests from 284 recorded in 2014 to 216 last year, Cmdr. Mike Son said. The 2018 total of 216 DUIs is up by four from the 2017 low of 212, Son said.

So far this year, police have arrested five drivers on suspicion of driving while impaired, including two who are accused of causing crashes.

During the past five years, Riggs said officers haven't changed their day-to-day work to focus more or less on looking for drivers who may be intoxicated. The arrests come up in daily patrols as officers observe improper lane use; when law-abiding drivers call in vehicles they see swerving; and as officers investigate crashes, Riggs said.

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The department also continues to participate in grant-funded campaigns around several holidays when more people might be driving intoxicated after parties.

Since police actions haven't changed, Riggs says the decrease in DUIs could be partly societal.

"I don't know if it's as much a police issue as it is a community realizing there may have been more of a problem in the past," Riggs said.

Since 2014, however, Naperville officials have focused on bringing order to a downtown night life scene that was beginning to develop a reputation for rowdiness.

Issues in 2012 and 2014, in which a teacher was stabbed to death in a downtown bar and two young men died when a car driven by a drunken driver crashed into a water-filled quarry, spurred several downtown drinking reforms in fall 2014. Changes the city council imposed also were aimed at cutting the instance of disturbances such as a large fight in summer 2014 that sprawled from the sidewalk to block traffic on a major downtown street.

Rules that have been in place for the past five years include regulations on late-night bar entry, beer sizes, shot sales, drink specials and security training.

Riggs said it's beneficial to keep bartenders current on their training, which helps them notice signs of intoxication and know when to cut off customers' access to alcohol.

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