Not what you want to advertise: Naperville to add more police downtown

Naperville is a big suburb that has been known in the past for being wealthy and safe. However, some recent events are leading to a change: more police presence in its lively downtown.

Police Chief Bob Marshall told the City Council Tuesday he has seen “a trend of relatively serious crimes,” in the past few months since officers who were helping patrol the downtown over the summer returned to their regular duties in area schools. Incidents have included two violent fights and an armed robbery in addition to last February’s fatal stabbing of 24-year-old Naperville teacher Shaun Wild at a downtown bar.

Marshall said he is taking a more proactive approach to weekend patrols by adding police officers to the beat as well as both uniformed and plain-clothes investigators…

Councilman Bob Fieseler said he does not believe most Naperville residents are partaking in the late-night activity they are paying police to monitor, and the city may want to consider closing bars an hour earlier, which would mean midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends…

Councilman Joe McElroy called shortening hours “the nuclear option,” but agreed the city may eventually have to look at doing so as a last resort. He also would like to see more activities like theater and live music offered in the downtown as an alternative to getting drunk.

This highlights two suburban conundrums. First, lots of suburbs would like to have downtowns like Naperville that include national retail stores, local businesses, and plenty of restaurants and bars. These businesses bring in visitors and, more importantly, money to the city’s coffers. Yet, bars can also bring about a different kind of atmosphere that is less family-friendly. Second, Naperville says it has small-town charm and yet its size, which could be related to perceptions about crime and the presence of multiple bars, suggests the city has some qualities of bigger cities. What is Naperville really: an idyllic single-family home community or a thriving jobs and suburban cultural center?

My guess is that Naperville would prefer to keep this increase police preference as unobtrusive as possible. A very visible presence might be bad for business but more incidents could also be bad for business.

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