Is downtown Naperville really unsafe at 10 PM?

Is downtown Naperville an unsafe place? According to the Naperville chief of police, recent efforts by the department and other interested parties have helped make the downtown safer late at night:

Naperville police Chief Robert Marshall is just five months into his revamped downtown enforcement plan and he and city leaders already are calling it a success…

Beginning in September and running through mid-January, four additional officers were moved downtown between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays to focus on disorderly conduct issues, public intoxication and urination, and underage drinking. According to Marshall’s memo, the officers contributed 591 hours of additional police coverage and cost the city nearly $35,000 in overtime costs.

“Last year we had a tragic murder, an armed robbery and two very violent beatings that sent all participants to the hospital,” Marshall said. “As far as violent crimes go, that is a very low number, but our goal is zero. And in the five months since we’ve enacted our plan (in September), that’s exactly what we have.”…

“There is a perception that it’s not safe to come downtown after 10 p.m.,” Pradel said. “Our police are doing their part and we’ve told the business community they are also responsible to make that perception go away.”

I am particularly interested in this quote from Naperville’s mayor who discusses the perception about Naperville’s downtown late at night. This violence could be quite jarring in a community like Naperville that is both quite wealthy and quite safe for a community its size. Who exactly is worried about the downtown at night? Perhaps it is Naperville residents who like the residential nature of the suburb and buy into the small town charm leaders claim Naperville possesses. Perhaps it is possible visitors who will take their money elsewhere. In these sorts of discussions, I haven’t seen any numbers about a downturn in business in Naperville – is this about perceptions or an actual loss of business?

Overall, this seems to come back to an issue I’ve raised before: how can a community like Naperville (and other upscale suburbs face similar issues – see here) both encourage business and cultural activity while also protecting the residential charms of their community? Bars and restaurants can bring in large amounts of money into city coffers. Many communities would love to have the number of restaurants and visitors that Naperville attracts. Yet, this can also bring trouble, particularly when bars are involved.

For now, Naperville leaders seem happy with their new approach that minimizes violence but keeps the money flowing in. Perceptions and reputations are important as suburbanites can spend their money in plenty of places other than Naperville.

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