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Best and Worst - 50,000+ Population
Like most Chicago suburbs its size, Wheaton has a thriving downtown business district and assorted shopping centers throughout town. But it also has a very low rate of property crime, something that is typically higher in a town with an active retail base. “That’s our church-on-every-corner history,” says Elizabeth Dee, who has lived in Wheaton for all of her 37 years. “There is still that neighborhood feeling all over town.”
Although officials in this growing Will County city can’t entirely eliminate these problems, they are working with a consortium of industry representatives to find solutions. “The two oil refineries in Will County-one not far from Joliet-spent millions of dollars to come into compliance with low-sulfur gasoline production rules in 2003, and they will do that again to meet the low-sulfur diesel rules in 2007,” says Jerry Caamano, executive director of the Joliet-based Three Rivers Manufacturers’ Association. Joliet-area industries, he says, “have made significant capital investments to meet new ozone rules,” which will go into effect by 2010 with the goal of lowering overall emissions.
To address the area’s high crime rates, Dave Gerdes, the town’s police chief, sends about 200 of his 285 police officers home with squad cars at night, which “puts a visual presence in every neighborhood.” And he notes that, over the past several years, Joliet’s city council has come up with the money to hire additional police officers. According to Gerdes, the department now has 2.17 officers per thousand citizens, and in 2004, he says, crime figures were down by half compared with rates a decade earlier.
The local public health care system will get a boost this fall when the Will County Health Department unveils a 15,000-square-foot addition to an already sizable primary care facility on Joliet’s southeast side. And this year the county facility will offer low-cost prenatal care to mothers of about 1,100 Joliet newborns.
Finally, city hall is pursuing a $42-million program that, by 2007, would purge the water supply of radium, a naturally occurring radioactive element that poses some threat to health. That would be good news to area residents, whose water system racked up 29 violations on the chart, second only to Ford Heights, with 38.
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