Transportation: Community Radio Watch helping make roads safe

Ever wonder why Naperville is such a safe place to live? It doesn’t just happen, and one group helping make it happen is the Naperville Community Radio Watch.

Acting as additional eyes and ears for the Naperville Police Department, the group saved the city more than $200,000 last year, according to estimates from the group’s vice chairman Steven Rothmund.

This volunteer group provides assistance patrolling streets, identifying impaired drivers, protecting private and public property, searching for lost/missing individuals, and educating the public about new laws, Rothmund added.

With 30 members ranging in age from late 20s to 92, they also step in to lend additional manpower for data gathering and issue analysis, Naperville Police Sgt. Mark Ksiazek said.

CRW was instrumental in the groundwork to change traffic signage at Royce Road and Washington Street, an intersection that can be jam-packed with a multitude of bicyclists, joggers and motorists on summer weekend days, he added

After a bicyclist was hit by a vehicle at that intersection last summer, CRW found numerous traffic violations after monitoring the intersections of Royce and Washington, and Ring Road and Washington, Ksiazek said.

“As a result, traffic signs were changed and additional signs were added,” he said. “The cycle of the traffic signal also was altered.”

Even Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel sang the group’s praises in a recent Naperville Sun column as a group, “who go above and beyond to keep watch over anything out of the ordinary and report it back to the Police Department.”

“In the past 32 years, our group has volunteered over 185,000 patrol hours, driven almost 400,000 miles and provided another 49,000 hours of administrative time to coordinate all of these efforts with the Naperville Police Department,” Rothmund said.

Since CRW uses their own vehicles on patrols, this anonymity allows them to see things that a marked squad car might not see, he added.

“Anytime we are on patrol, we have police radios and communicate directly with dispatchers.”

Naperville Community Radio Watch was instrumental in assisting Naperville Police with educating parents about the Illinois law that banned handheld phones in school zones, Ksiazek said.

We have 34 schools in Naperville, Kziazek said. It is primarily the elementary schools that have problems with traffic issues — everything from design to noncompliance by parents.

CRW observed four schools in Naperville to determine awareness of the law. If a school zone had a high number of violators, CRW provided literature to motorists or set up display boards reminding motorists in school zones of the new law, he added.

After an enforcement period, CRW followed up to gauge compliance.

“In this initiative alone, we had 20 members work a combined total of 28 patrols to gather the data, educate the public and do follow up,” Rothmund said.

As part of an annual police safety challenge competition, the CRW worked with Naperville police to monitor seat belt use in the city by counting the number of motorists wearing their belts at several different intersections in Naperville.

The group also assisted the police in educating people about railroad safety.

“We wanted to educate people about crossing against the gate,” Ksiazek said. “We monitored how many individuals were crossing and gave them information about railroad crossing safety.”

Rothmund said members often have full-time jobs in addition to their community service.

“My father was a Chicago police officer,” he said. Although, he didn’t follow in his father’s career footsteps, Rothmund said as a 23-year Naperville resident, he volunteers his time to Naperville Community Radio Watch as a way to give back.

I, for one, am glad he and other members of the group are watching.

Cathy Janek, who has lived in Naperville since 1986, writes about transportation.