The Chicago Police Department is beefing up security for this weekend’s Lollapalooza in the wake of last October’s deadly mass shooting at a country concert in Las Vegas — and after reports that the Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, may have eyed the Chicago festival as a potential target last summer.
CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson said the department is widening its usual patrol perimeter around the music festival in Grant Park to include adjacent streets and high-rise buildings.
“Las Vegas taught us all across the country to do things a bit differently,” Johnson said. “The important piece is to be prepared in the event that something does happen.”
After the Las Vegas shooting last October left 58 dead and injured hundreds more, it was revealed that the gunman, Stephen Paddock, had booked a room at the Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Avenue — overlooking Lollapalooza — for that weekend, but never checked in.
Instead, on Oct. 1, Paddock holed up in a 32nd floor room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, overlooking a country music concert, and fired over a thousand bullets into the crowd before killing himself.
The number of police, safety and security personnel both inside and outside the festival has increased from last year, according to First Deputy Rich Guidice from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
“The conversation began immediately” following the Vegas shooting, Guidice said.
Johnson said Friday the department will have “eyes in the sky” this year, which Guidice said can include snipers on rooftops, cameras and helicopters.
OEMC, which usually monitors the event, said they’ve worked with CPD and the Chicago Fire Department on a crisis response plan and have canvassed business owners in the area to make them familiar with this year’s security procedures and personnel.
Guidice said city safety officials also recently met with representatives from major hotel chains downtown to develop safety plans. They encouraged hotels to report suspicious activity and to join Chicago’s Public and Private Partnership portal, where they can post live updates should something happen.
Additionally, OEMC said backpacks will no longer be allowed into the festival — only small purses and bags. Water bottles must be empty — they can be filled once you are inside.
OEMC said “upon entering, fans should be prepared for individual TSA-style security screening, which includes magnetometer screening and a full body pat-down, and all bags will be searched.”
Lollapalooza, which starts Thursday and runs through Sunday, always draws a massive crowd. Last year, about 100,000 people showed up each day, including notable names like Sasha and Malia Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
A Lollapalooza spokesperson said safety is the festival’s “number one priority.” Guests can find up-to-date alerts by downloading the Lollapalooza app, on video screens scattered throughout the festival grounds, through audio announcements at the event and through the festival’s social media pages.
In the event of a weather evacuation, festival officials said guests can relocate to one of the underground parking garages at the north and south ends of Grant Park and on the east side of Millennium Park.
Two weeks ago, MGM Resorts International, the company which operates Mandalay Bay, drew backlash when it sued victims of the Vegas shooting in hopes that it would be cleared of any and all liability.