By Bob Uphues
Brookfield police have rolled out a new initiative designed to keep impaired drivers off the road after they've been out drinking at local establishments by letting them park overnight in areas – like along the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard -- that otherwise have parking restrictions.
Police rolled out its new SafePark program on Nov. 1, but are now ramping up its efforts to spread the word by placing posters in participating establishments and encouraging more places to join the program.
Chief Edward Petrak first approached village management in March with the idea – which he said originally came from his son – of waiving parking restrictions for people who'd rather not get behind the wheel after a night of imbibing.
While some decide to leave their cars parked overnight in restricted areas, and run the risk for getting a parking ticket or getting their vehicle towed, others decide they'd rather not take that chance and get behind the wheel anyway.
"The idea would be to come up with something where worries about parking tickets or towing wouldn't factor in a bar's patron's decision to drive,' Petrak wrote in a March email to village staff.
The value of such a program was reinforced, Petrak said after meeting with newly elected trustees last spring, where the idea of a coupon-type parking pass idea came up again.
Petrak assigned Lt. James Burdett to spearhead the effort, and he reached out to Martin Lynch, owner of Irish Times Pub and the president of the Brookfield Bar Owners Association.
In August, Lynch expressed support for the idea, who added that Burke Beverage, the McCook-based liquor distributor, was also running a $10-off Uber ride promotion with Miller Lite.
Irish Times, Little Owl Social Pub, Ryan's Public House, Sebastian's Ale and Whiskey House and Zubar are participating in the program so far, said Deputy Chief Michael Kuruvilla.
"I'm sure more will jump on board," Kuruvilla said. "We're absolutely open to more businesses signing on."
Participating establishments are able to provide parking vouchers, which can be placed in the windshield of their vehicles, letting police or towing companies know the vehicle can be parked in a restricted zone overnight.
In order to avoid someone abusing the parking waiver, each voucher is individually numbered and must be signed and dated by the participating establishment, Kuruvilla said.
"We want people to make good choices, but we don't want them taking up all of the street parking," Kuruvilla said. "I suspect that, overall, it will go well."
Kuruvilla said the police department is also exploring its own rideshare coupon program, along the lines of the one implemented by the Riverside Police Department in 2017.
"We're in the gathering info stage," he said.
Riverside partnered with the rideshare company Lyft to provide coupons to patrons, who can get a ride at a 50-percent discount, up to $10. Lyft provided Riverside with 1,000 such coupons when the program started.
"With rideshares and the new generation, it's really changed things," Kuruvilla said. "Ridesharing has helped in combating [drunk driving] as well."