Naperville Nightlife — A proactive approach to curbing crime

February 2013 View more


Downtown Naperville is increasingly becoming an attractive hotspot for restaurants and nightlife in the western suburbs. As the downtown continues to grow and develop, the nightlife is also booming and blossoming into a big business. For example, an estimated 10,000 visitors enjoyed the downtown during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and at the Hometown Holidays Celebration Little Friends Parade of Lights.

However, with the big city vibe, comes a few big city growing pains.



Late-night Crime:

In 2012, there were several crimes in the downtown area including two violent fights and an armed robbery, in addition to the fatal stabbing of a 24-year-old Naperville teacher last February.

“Most (late-night) individuals are from outside of Naperville. They are in their mid-20’s and alcohol has been a factor in most of the cases of violence,” said Sgt. Lou Cammiso, Naperville Police Department.

During the summer, the Naperville Police Department utilizes several school resource officers to help patrol the downtown streets. When those officers returned to their regular assigned duties in August, the number of incidents increased, according to the Naperville Police Department.

“Downtown Naperville remains a safe place for families to enjoy during the evening and later evening hours. Most of the trouble (crime) is taking place after hours, around 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., when most families are not downtown,” said Sgt. Lou Cammiso. “Most downtown establishments are acting responsibly and obeying rules and regulations. A few establishments need to tighten security measures and code enforcements.”

Jimmy’s Grill owner Jimmy Bergeron, says some of the downtown trouble is a matter of perception. Bergeron says incidents that happen outside an establishment often get unfairly tied to that address even if the people involved in the incident were not at the establishment.

“There’s a perception that we have a late-night problem in downtown Naperville, real or not. We need to wipe out the perception. We need to work together with establishments to make sure everyone has a nice (safe) time,” said Mayor A. George Pradel.

 Cracking down:

In November 2012, the City of Naperville and BlackFinn American Saloon reached a voluntary agreement regarding several incidents that occurred in and around that establishment. The City suspended BlackFinn’s late-night liquor permit due to four violations of the City’s liquor code. Naperville City Attorney Mike DiSanto said under the agreement, BlackFinn was not allowed to serve alcohol after 11 p.m. for seven nights, which was later reduced to three nights, and was required to pay a $1,000 fine. In addition, BlackFinn agreed that all of its security staff will receive local Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) and they agreed to install an ID checker. BlackFinn will also install security cameras within one year, according to DiSanto. BlackFinn was not available for comment.

“I believe suspending BlackFinn’s late-night liquor permit was fair and reasonable,” said Pradel, who is also the City’s Liquor Commissioner. “This is a proactive position in the downtown area. Before it was reactive. Now things are coming out and we are looking for documentation for legal measures to be enforced by the City. “

“We are concerned about all liquor permits in the city. Not just in the downtown area. Everyone is being watched more closely and will be checked to make sure they are compliant with the City’s rules and regulations,” said Pradel.

Many business owners and community leaders are supportive of the city’s recent crack-down.

“It’s a good step. However, the concern is that there are a lot of rules on the books already. We are not asking for more rules, we’re simply asking for the enforcement of existing rules,” said Katie Wood, executive director, Downtown Naperville Alliance. “Events are going to occur in a town our size. We need to be proactive.”

 Proactive Police Approach

Naperville police and city officials has taken a proactive approach to downtown safety. The police department has identified and implemented a series of action steps, according to Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall.

 NPD Action Steps:

  • Meeting with Mayor Pradel to discuss a proactive response to the incidents
  • Specialized training for police officers regarding liquor code enforcement
  • Enforcement of specific programs to crack down on fake ID’s, fights, public intoxication, and DUI’s
  • Reassigned plain-clothes officers downtown
  • Increased overall police presence downtown during peak times
  • Work with the Fire Department on occupancy checks during peak hours
  •  Increased checks on establishments

“Downtown Naperville is a vibrant, safe and friendly atmosphere. The safety of those persons who visit downtown Naperville is top priority for the Naperville Police Department,” Marshall told Naperville Magazine. “Our objective is to ensure those who visit have a pleasurable and safe experience. Those who chose to be disruptive, violate our ordinances and liquor codes and ruin the experience for others will be held accountable,” said Marshall.

“Overall, these steps will keep people safe downtown. A few episodes shouldn’t diminish the positive voice of our city,” said Wood.

Community Action

“Marshall is being proactive. He’s looking at it from a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective,” said Scott Wehrli, Naperville Development Partnership chairman and member of the Liquor Commission. Wehrli was also part of a special liquor commission task force reinstated to look into the concerns of retailers and restaurant owners. “Our first step was to stop the bleeding. So we put a cap on late-night liquor licenses,” said Wehrli. The task force also recommended increased enforcement of existing laws and encouraged open dialogue between retailers, restaurant owners, and city officials.

In December, the Restaurant Association of Naperville met with Naperville Police, city officials, and the Naperville Development Partnership to discuss the ongoing effort to provide a safe and entertaining downtown nightlife. The restaurateurs initiated the meeting as part of a safety program, “Celebrate Safely in Naperville”.

“A lot of good is happening downtown. We need to protect that,” said Ray Kinney, Naperville business owner and Naperville Development Partnership’s Dine Naperville chairman. Kinney was part of the December meeting. “Naperville is a vibrant place. We want to keep it that way so we need to work together collectively to develop best practices and procedures,” said Kinney.

 Growing Pains 

As Naperville continues to grow, numerous community groups are closely monitoring the delicate balance between the needs of restaurant and bar owners and the needs of retailers.

“We have a vibrant downtown that is busy nearly 24 hours a day. During the day, early evening, and late night. They are all important to the local economy. A lot of people are working to make sure one day part does not negatively affect the other day parts,” said Wood.

People are enjoying downtown. We want them to. But they just need to obey the rules and not cause any trouble,” said Pradel.

In the long run, it comes down to doing what’s right for the community. Leaders say no one person can resolve these issues overnight.

“This is a community issue. The only way to fix it is to get everyone involved, the government, restaurants, businesses, and residents to work together to make it better,” said Wehrli.