Chicago’s mayor and top cop vow heavy police presence headed into long holiday weekend

Last year, the July Fourth weekend was a bloodbath on Chicago streets with over 100 people shot, 19 of them killed. Thirteen children were among the wounded, five of them shot within a nine-hour period.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown talk about a Chicago police officer who was seriously wounded while answering a domestic violence call Friday morning.

Brian Rich | Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago residents and visitors will see more police officers riding the CTA, patrolling beaches and special events and on foot and bike patrol in neighborhoods that “need it most” to prevent a surge in violence over the July Fourth weekend.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown refused to say how many additional officers would be deployed over the long holiday weekend, which got off to a violent start with a deadly mass shooting in the South Loop and the wounding of a police officer responding to a domestic violence call in Little Italy.

He would only say there would be “enough officers where we need them” after regularly scheduled days off were cancelled yet again.

Personnel assigned to the city’s public safety headquarters have also been reassigned to what Brown called “precision deployments” in South and West side neighborhoods that “account for more than half of the violence,” Brown said.

“While I won’t give a number, we do have adequate resources … where we need them,” Brown told reporters at the city’s 911 emergency center. “Navy Pier obviously is a focus. All of our high-violence areas — obviously the top 55 beats —a re a focus. As well as areas within every neighborhood … [and] our downtown.”

Last year, the July Fourth weekend was a bloodbath on Chicago streets with over 100 people shot, 19 of them killed. Thirteen children were among the wounded, five of them shot within a nine-hour period. Two Chicago police supervisors were also shot.

This year, the pressure on an exhausted and understaffed Chicago Police Department is intensified by a troubling surge in violent crime in the downtown area, even as tourism rebounds to some of the highest levels since the pandemic hit.

“It’s been really exciting to see the tourism, the people coming out, feeling comfortable, enjoying our city. Presence has been a big, big effort of ours for all of our tourism areas,” Brown said.

“Perceptions of crime and safety are as important as the statistical crime and safety that we talk about every week,” he said. “Declines in shootings and homicides don’t mean much if your perceptions of safety are not at a high level as well. So that’s where our efforts at presence [come in]. If you have noticed, we have several fixed posts. We have our blue lights on. We have officers on foot. We have officers on bike.”

Last month, a divided City Council agreed to strengthen Chicago’s seldom-enforced curfew law — to 10 p.m. from 11 p.m. for young people under 18 instead of 17 — in a desperate attempt to stop an outbreak of youth violence.

The curfew crackdown is a companion to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s weekend ban on unaccompanied minors at Millennium Park starting at 6 p.m. every Thursday and continuing through Sunday.

Lightfoot joined her police superintendent in preaching the same tough-love message to parents and guardians that they used going into the Memorial Day weekend.

“We want our young people to be able to enjoy all of the incredible opportunities for fun and safe activities that are happening all over our city. But where that begins is at home,” Lightfoot said.

“Parents, guardians, caring adults in our children’s lives, have a plan for them this weekend,” she said. “Know where they are and who they are with. Critically important.”

Brown added, “Parents, please, please know where your children are. Participate with them in their enjoying the city. Don’t leave it to government to be the parents of your kids. We need you, parents please, to help us make sure your young people are safe.”

The perception of safety on designated South and West Side commercial strips will get a boost from “street ambassadors” wearing “distinctive vests” and equipped with radios to alert their supervisors if they see a crime in progress.

If not, they’ll provide what Lightfoot called, a “friendly, welcoming presence.”

“That’s another way we’re expanding the opportunity for public safety,” the mayor said.

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