By Bob Uphues
Anyone wishing to request overnight on-street parking or vacation watches in Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside won't have to get on the phone every time and provide info to a dispatcher.
Instead, you can now go online and type in vehicle and residence info, which will be saved so you don't have to reenter it each time, and the request will go directly to local police.
The initiative is a collaboration between the three villages and West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3), which handles police and fire dispatching for those towns as well as McCook.
Both Riverside and Brookfield went live with the system, which is being administered through a company called Frontline Public Safety Solutions, on Jan. 3. The respective websites can be accessed at frontlinepss.com/riverside and at frontlinepss.com/brookfieldil.
North Riverside is in the process of making the service available to its residents, and it should be live soon at frontlinepss.com/northriverside. McCook is not participating in the initiative as it gets just a handful of such calls each year.
Residents of all the villages can continue to call in overnight parking requests by contacting WC3 at 708-853-1354.
WC3 is paying Frontline Public Safety Solutions $3,000 annually for the service, an amount which is being split evenly between Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside. The online portal may include other modules in the future, such as pet and bicycle registration or even requests for police patrols at no extra cost.
The goal is not only to provide a convenient way for residents to call in overnight parking and vacation watch requests but also cut down on the amount of time it takes dispatchers to handle and process such calls.
The information can then be shared with patrol officers, who can access it from their squad cars.
"I do think this will free dispatchers up, but also officers can get information while they're on the street and it allows us to track it better, to see if the same person is calling in numerous times," said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.
While it might take just a couple of minutes for dispatchers to get the pertinent information from a resident, the minutes can really add up.
According to Jason Rodgers, executive director of WC3, North Riverside residents called in 4,152 times to request overnight parking amnesty in 2019, while there were 3,740 overnight parking calls by residents in Brookfield.
There were far fewer calls from Riverside residents – just 450 in 2019 – but that village also has a complete overnight parking ban on village streets between 2 and 6 a.m. In North Riverside, only vehicles bearing resident vehicle stickers are allowed on the streets overnight, while Brookfield bans overnight parking in certain locations.
Police allow overnight parking where it's typically not allowed in special circumstances – in the case of short term out-of-town visitors or if a driveway is being repaved, for example.
"Now if you have a guest that wants to stay overnight, you can click on the link, put in the license plate and location and then you're good to go as far as parking there," said Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak.
That said, calling or typing in a request doesn't mean you're free to park whenever or wherever you want. Street-sweeping and snow-plowing restrictions still will be enforced, and Petrak said that police can place a limit on the number of requests allowed per address to prevent the system from being exploited.
And, while many residents don't take advantage of the service, all three villages allow homeowners to request special watches on their properties while they're away on vacation.
"It's comforting sometimes to know people are keeping an eye on your house," said Petrak.
In both Riverside and Brookfield, patrol officers are given the addresses of homes where a vacation watch has been requested. And whenever possible, an officer will get out of the squad car and checks doors and windows to make sure a home is secure.
"We do it as part of our rollcall assignments," Petrak said.