Talking Naperville Event Safety After Highland Park Shooting

July 6, 2022
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Following the news of the Fourth of July shooting in Highland Park that left seven people dead, former Naperville Park District Executive Director and past Naperville Police Department officer Ray McGury shared his thoughts with Naperville Community Television, particularly when it comes to Naperville’s own safety.

“Highland Park looks a lot like Naperville.  I think my reaction is just like everybody else’s, certainly shock, sorrow [and] anger,” said McGury.  ” Is Naperville 100% safe?  The answer’s no.  If I’m focused on destruction, I’m going to look for that opportunity to do bad things.  Now what stops me is a lot of things that Naperville does, the preplanning, the post-planning.”

When it comes to parades and other large-scale events, Naperville’s Chief of Police can’t say much about their safety tactics, for obvious reasons, but Chief Jason Arres does say that the pre-planning often starts as soon as 6 to 8 months prior to each event.

“It involves the public safety element, the event organizers talking through everything [like] traffic plan, road closures, physical security in a lot of different ways, to come up with the best plan to best lock the event down and keep it as safe as we can,” said Arres.

McGury commends the Naperville Police Department for their training and forward thinking.  In law enforcement for more than 30 years himself, both in Naperville and Bolingbrook as chief, he’s familiar with the tactics – and mindset – it takes to keep a community secure.

“If you think like a cop, you aren’t going to catch much.  If you think like a criminal, you’re going to catch a bunch of criminals,” he said.  “I look at things and I always think, ‘I would I attack this.'”

During his time as an officer, McGury was responsible for planning many events, including Ribfest when it was in Naperville, trying to keep it safe with tens of thousands attending.

“With that came a lot of sleepless nights, worrying had we done the right thing?  Did we prepare correctly?” said McGury.

When it comes to preparing the city’s 90 special events each year, the police department’s strategy is always the same.  It’s the scope of resources that may vary.

“A big event, like a race, requires a lot more resources – both people and equipment – than something that has a real small footprint in a small area,” said Arres.  “In either case, we use the same strategies because the goal is the same, make the event as safe as we can.”

Both Arres and McGury agree that it takes the community as a whole to keep everyone as safe as possible and ask that if a bystander sees something suspicious, that that person say something.

“If something doesn’t feel right to you, your instincts are usually right on and that’s where we come in,” said Arres.  “The participants in the events and those watching, those are extra eyes so if something feels out of sorts for you, call 9-1-1.  You’re not bothering us because that’s our job and that phone call could be the phone call we need.”

McGury adds that that the only way to truly be safe these days is to stay home.  With that said, he trusts in the work of the Naperville police department and plans to continue attending future events, including the upcoming Last Fling during Labor Day weekend.  In a statement sent to NCTV17, organizers of The Last Fling say they plan to move forward with the Labor Day parade as usual in partnership with the Naperville Police and Fire Departments.

“In response to the tragedy which occurred in Highland Park only a few days ago, the Naperville Jaycees would like to extend sympathies to all of those affected. As in the past, the Last Fling will be working closely with the Naperville Emergency Response Teams to ensure we institute the most up-to-date security measures in effort to provide a secure and enjoyable Labor Day Weekend for all event attendees to celebrate the last days of summer safely.”

What Happened in Highland Park?

On July 24, a gunman opened fire from a rooftop during a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least seven people below and injuring many others.  The suspect, 21-year-old Bobby Crimo, fled the scene to Wisconsin, where he contemplated another shooting there, also during a holiday celebration, but didn’t do so.  He was later found and arrested during a traffic stop in Illinois and will remain in Lake County Jail without bail.  He admitted to the shooting.  Investigators say he fired nearly 80 rounds and had a second weapon, plus an additional 60 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle.