NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Since 2019, the Naperville Police Department has seen a sharp increase in drivers fleeing police traffic stops, leading to leadership advocating for heavier punishments when drivers do so.

“Pre-2020, we had about 15-19—what we call ‘fleeing and eluding’—[when] someone we attempt to traffic stop takes off from us,” said Naperville Police Chief Jason Arres. “[In] 2020, we finished the year around 55. [In] 2021, there was 101.”

If the current trend continues, Naperville police will likely see up to 130-140 instances of drivers speeding away by the end of 2022.

Strict rules on pursuing drivers and trouble holding them accountable have made life for police trying to address the situation difficult.

“When someone flees they’re not stopping for red lights. They’re not stopping for stop signs so, your family [or] my family … thinks they have a green light through an intersection, there’s crashes that happen,” Arres said.

Arres also mentioned “it could take days. It could take weeks” when trying to track down drivers who flee police, depending on their leads.

“We have made arrests of individuals that have fled from us,” Arres said. “But nowhere near the percentage or a good percentage of those who are fleeing us.”

Next month, Arres plans to bring forward an ordinance to Naperville City Council that would fine drivers $900 for speeding away from police, while also advocating for the class A misdemeanor to be upgraded to a class four felony.

“That opens up another possibility in terms of accountability where the registered owner’s vehicle—through proper proceedings—could be subject to forfeiture, a seizure where they could potentially lose their car,” Arres said.