Police chief wants to put more officers on Naperville streets
By Hank Beckman For The Sun December 15, 2012 6:30PM
Naperville Chief of Police Robert Marshall talked to reporters after a bond hearing for Elzbieta Plackowska, 40 of Naperville for the murder of two children in her care. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:27AM
Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall wants more police officers on the streets of Naperville.
He thinks it is high time the department added more personnel.
“We’re operating with 41 less people than we did in 2007,” he said.
Of the 41 full-time positions that have been eliminated, 25 were sworn police officers, he said.
Marshall has proposed adding four and one-half full-time civilian employee spots to the Naperville Police Department, which would free up sworn officers to go on the street.
“We still want to supply a high level of service,” he said.
If Marshall’s proposal is approved when the City Council votes on its budget in March 2013, it would free up the equivalent of two and one-half patrol officers now doing administrative work to return to the streets.
The proposal includes the hiring of two front desk assistants, a crime scene technician, a civilian crime investigator and a part-time crime prevention specialist.
The total hit on the city’s budget is estimated at $300,000. Marshall said the money would be well spent.
First, Marshall noted the rash of heroin–related deaths in Naperville since 2011, seven overdose deaths in 2011 and three this year, as an area that was in particular need of attention.
Then there were the 252 suicide attempts in 2012, with six people actually succeeding in taking their lives.
While suicide attempts were made by people as young as 12 to those in their 70s and 80s, Marshall feels there is a special need to pay closer attention to the community’s youth and come up with some plan to help them cope with the pressures and temptations of modern life.
The proposed part-time crime prevention specialist would focus on support services for the city’s youth population, working with area schools and non-profit groups in focusing on hot issues including drug use and suicide prevention, but also bullying and cyber crime.
Marshall said the intention was to give schools and non-profits the benefit of the department’s resources and knowledge in crime prevention.
“We believe we’re not only responsible for apprehending criminals, but preventing crime through education and working with community partners,” he said.
The two front desk assistants would be a start toward providing more service for those who come to the police station for help. Currently, the front desk is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and closed on weekends.
Marshall doesn’t promise that the front desk will be manned around the clock, but at least there would be additional coverage later in the evenings if the proposal goes through, he said.
He said more police personnel are needed because evidence is slowly accumulating that Naperville is starting to experience, if not a crime wave, at least more demand for police service, he said.
Marshall said that one of his priorities since taking over the department earlier this year was to analyze the trends of the last three years in terms of what demands are being placed on the department.
Although the final results aren’t in, Marshall said he sees an unmistakable trend towards an increase in “calls for service.”
Marshall cited the recent double homicide involving a woman allegedly murdering two small children as an example of an incident eating up 1,324 hours of police work — with no end in sight.
“We’re still continuing to look at evidence,” he said.
The downtown entertainment district is one area that Marshall has no doubt needs an increased police presence.
“Obviously I didn’t have enough police officers for downtown,” he said, pointing to some recent fights and an armed robbery as evidence. “We know for a fact that we saw an increase in calls for police service in the downtown area.”
Marshall stressed that it was not only the downtown area that was responsible for the increase in demand, but acknowledged that the district has been at the forefront of recent efforts.
He declined to cite a single cause for the increasing violence downtown, saying instead that multiple factors were involved, including selling alcohol to people already intoxicated, the physical layout of some of the night spots causing those intoxicated people to jostle each other, and even the music played in clubs contributing to potential for mayhem.
“Maybe they should play Frank Sinatra and Perry Como,” he said.
Marshall is aware that any increase in government spending still raises questions.
He said that the additions to the department would mean more police officers in the neighborhoods, more police officers downtown and a more efficient use of police resources.