How Naperville is trying to prevent crimes before they occur

Updated 2/14/2020 3:05 PM

A new team within the Naperville Police Department aims to take detailed intel about when and where crimes occur and use it to find ways to prevent them.

The strategic patrol team is forming this year with two new crime analysts coordinating with four new officers to narrow down the times and places where crimes are occurring and then take action, Chief Robert Marshall said.


If there is a string of car burglaries or a rash of home break-ins or one address with hundreds of calls for service in a year, Marshall said, the team will "ask the why questions" and delve into work on prevention.

"The strategic patrol team is going to do some problem solving," Marshall said, focusing on locations police respond to the most. "What is going on there? What can we do from a proactive policing perspective?"

The team is costing the city an estimated $497,800 for salaries, supplies and equipment, according to the 2020 budget. It falls under the patrol division managed by Deputy Chief Jason Arres.

It is the result of a long-standing goal Marshall has held since becoming chief in May 2012 to improve the use of real-time crime statistics in policing.

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"We get a lot of data here, but I didn't think we were using it to the best of our ability," Marshall said. "It's got to be actionable, and it's got to get down to our line-level beat officers."

Crime analysts including Liz Saffell, who joined the department last summer, and another who is yet to start will review calls for service and arrests as they occur and feed the information to the strategic patrol unit, as well as to patrol officers in general.

If typical policing -- responding to crime when it occurs -- is like chopping down a weed, Arrest said, data-based policing aims to come closer to pulling out the metaphorical weeds of ongoing crimes and preventing them from continuing.

"The analogy I use for this team is how do we uproot these weeds so they don't come back," Arres said.

The unit plans to work with business owners and homeowners associations to find additional crime prevention measures that can be put in place. And officers in the unit plan to show up where crimes have been reported at the times they are found to be happening -- instead of only on periodic patrols.

"Presence does matter. Having lights on is a huge deterrent," Arres said. "So very much data-driven policing for our patrol officers and this team."

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