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City will be ready if looters strike again, Lightfoot says

“We’ve heard loud and clear from people, they’re nervous, they’re scared, they’re worried, they’re thinking about whether or not their life can continue as they expect it to in this great city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot talks about measures put in place to address looting. She spoke Friday afternoon along the lakefront.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot talks about measures being put in place to address looting. She spoke Friday afternoon along the lakefront.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Seeking to reassure a city rattled by repeated looting in recent weeks, Mayor Lori Lightfoot Friday ticked off measures that will be taken to prevent further mayhem and noted “we simply must do better and we will do better.”

A social media task force has been created within the Chicago Police Department to expand efforts to scour the internet around the clock for any hint that looting might be in the works.

An additional 500 body-worn cameras will be deployed to police to help decrease incidents that aren’t caught on video — like the shooting in Englewood that authorities suspect helped spark the looting earlier this week.

Officers will be deployed in a moment’s notice to rapidly quell unrest and “geographic lockdowns” will also be swift as city departments will coordinate the use of large vehicles to block streets, Lightfoot said.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from people, they’re nervous, they’re scared, they’re worried, they’re thinking about whether or not their life can continue as they expect it to in this great city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said.

“So we’ve got to restore confidence by making sure that the measures we take are proactive, that we are aggressive, and when someone dares challenge our resolve that we hold them responsible.”

Lightfoot made her remarks at a news conference held along the waterfront just north of Navy Pier.

She chose a picturesque backdrop of the city’s skyline and invited federal, local and state law enforcement leaders to project strength in numbers.

Two police boats floating nearby had the effect of limiting the noise of a normally boisterous group of boaters who’d gathered in an area of Lake Michigan known as the “play pen.”

A police helicopter performed a low altitude flyby as Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx spoke, forcing her to pause momentarily.

“Let me be crystal clear ... we do not allow for any excuse for the criminality that we saw this past weekend,” said Foxx, noting that nearly 350 felony cases had been approved by her office related to looting since May, including 42 just this week.

The top prosecutor’s comments came just days after Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown called for Foxx to take a hard line on looters.

Emmerson Buie Jr., director of the FBI’s Chicago field office, spoke forcefully.

“We’ve all come together and said ‘It’s enough’...and we have to take a stand,” he said, noting that his agents, along with police detectives, were seeking additional help from the public in identifying looters who were captured on film.

About 1,000 additional police officers will be on the street for the time being, with regular days off on hold, and extra hours being tacked on to create 12 hour shifts.

Asked if he plans to have officers use tear gas against looters, Brown said pepper spray “has been effective, and we’ll continue using that.”

Lightfoot said the measures were part of a “comprehensive plan” to address recent lawlessness that’s included “caravans” of looters heading to commercial districts.

Lightfoot was asked: What took so long to come up with this plan when looting first occurred at the end of May during protests following George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer?

“It’s not ‘What took so long?’ When we see new challenges and threats to our city we have to be nimble, we have to adjust, and what you heard today and what you will be seeing this week and the foreseeable future is us being responsive to our businesses, to our residents, and understanding the intelligence that we have received about potential threats,” she said.

“It’s about making sure that we are here in the moment, and bringing the resources to bear to respond to this moment.”