'It's not a crime wave. It's a communication wave': Naperville says crime down this year despite recent incidents
In a recent 10-day span, Naperville experienced three robberies, a jewelry store burglary, a report of shots fired and a bomb threat.
Despite the optics of the high-profile criminal activity in the city, Interim Police Chief Jason Arres said crime actually is down through September 2021 compared to recent years, including 2020.
"When we see an influx of crime like this, I think it's important to take a step back and gain some context around what's going on," Arres said. "It's important to step back and see what the trends are."
At last week's Naperville City Council meeting, Councilman Patrick Kelly asked Arres about the rash of crimes that occurred between Sept. 21 and Oct. 1. A Fifth Third Bank and BMO Harris Bank were robbed, a bomb threat caused Naperville North High School to cancel classes for a day, shots were fired on East Bailey Road and a Subway restaurant was robbed, in addition to the jewelry store burglary.
Arres acknowledged it was a busy time for the department, but he said the cases don't necessarily equate to an increase in crime. Through September 2020, for example, he said, there were 24 robberies in Naperville compared to 16 this year.
Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said the Naperville Police Department has increased notifications through social media, texts and emails, which could contribute to perceptions that crime is up.
"A few years ago it was a very intentional, strategic decision to increase communication on crime," Chirico said. "I remember we kept saying, 'It's not a crime wave. It's a communication wave.'"
Comparing the first nine months of data from last year to this year, burglaries were down from 122 to 76, motor vehicle thefts decreased from 51 to 44 and aggravated assault and battery reports were down from 89 to 54. Burglaries to motor vehicles saw a drastic decrease from 260 to 98, which Arres attributed to increased awareness about locking cars at night.
The 2021 statistics reported by the Naperville Police Department are down in each category compared to every year since 2016, except with motor vehicle thefts, which were at a lower level between 2016 and 2019.
"Transparency for our department is critical, and that will continue because we need to put this information out there so there's awareness," Arres said. "We are a very safe city, but we are not a crime-free city. We're the fourth-largest city in the state of Illinois, and with that comes some of these issues."