Escalating number of Naperville gun seizures part of ‘disturbing trend,’ DuPage County state’s attorney says

Barely three months into the new year, Naperville officers have confiscated 15 firearms, three of which were illegally modified to make them into fully automatic weapons, Naperville police Cmdr. Michaus Williams said.

It’s part of a “disturbing trend” seen in Naperville and across DuPage County as more felons are found carrying guns, according to DuPage State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.

Williams said two handguns were seized during a routine traffic stop Monday night on Route 59 near McDowell Road. One had been illegally changed so it could fire automatically like a machine gun and the other had an extended magazine and a defaced serial number.

The driver, Jaden Chase Williams, 19, of Hazel Crest, was stopped for obstructed windows and improper window treatment and, because of the guns, ended up being charged with aggravated unlawful use of weapons, defacing firearm identification markings and having a loaded machine gun.

“With every illegal firearm that we confiscate, we cannot measure what crime that may have been prevented,” Williams said. “We feel that anytime we do so, however, that we have made a difference.”

Since 2019, the number of firearms recovered by Naperville police has risen more than 170%.

Last year 109 illegal firearms — more than half the 198 weapons seized — were found during traffic stops, Police Chief Jason Arres said during a news conference last month.

Most of those 109 weapons were taken because the people who had them were not lawfully allowed to own them and in many cases were felons, Arres said.

In previous years, the overall number of firearms confiscated was 146 in 2021, 82 in 2020 and 73 in 2019.

“That obviously should be concerning to all of us because people that aren’t supposed to have guns are illegally transporting guns around,” the police chief said. “It’s not something we want in any part of society because of the dangers that come with guns.”

Naperville statistics also show that 75% of those charged with firearms violations are from out of town.

Berlin said the number of cases of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon in the county has increased 195% in the last three years.

In 2022, his office charged 121 unlawful use of a weapon cases, up from 82 in 2021, 69 in 2020 and 41 in 2019, he said.

“We see more people, especially felons, who just have no regard for the law whatsoever,” Berlin said. “And it’s as if they feel there’s not going to be consequences, until they get charged in DuPage County and they find out otherwise.

“It’s a very disturbing trend,” he said.

There’s no one reason for the increase of firearm seizures, Arres said.

“Yes, we’re making more traffic stops,” he said. City officers made about 28,000 traffic stops in 2022 compared to 25,000 in 2021.

But driver behaviors also contribute, Arres said.

People think that just because they can purchase cannabis legally at a store, they can carry it loose in a vehicle, he said. When officers are searching for the drugs, they’re also finding firearms, he said.

Another thing that will prompt officers to search a car is when a driver moves around in a furtive manner, the chief said.

The way to stem the trend is to continue to enforce the laws that are on the books, Berlin said.

“These offenders have to be held accountable, and that’s what we do,” he said. “We charge them, we prosecute them and most cases (end with defendants) going to the penitentiary,” he said.

The state’s attorney said he believes prosecutions not only take criminals off the street, but serve as a deterrent.

“I think that’s what has to be done,” Berlin said.