More undercover cops, video surveillance at Taste

June 21, 2011 4:28:25 PM PDT
In an effort to prevent violent outbreaks at this year's Taste of Chicago, the city is increasing the number of undercover police officers at the festival.

In addition, more video surveillance will be used to protect the people who attend the Taste.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced the city's security plan Tuesday at a press conference. Officers will be mounted, in uniform and undercover, he said. But the city's top cop stopped short of providing all the details.

"We are deploying the same number of uniformed officers. We have deploying more undercover officers. We are not going to tell you the numbers because that would imprudent for us to do that," said McCarthy.

Besides working the crowd, McCarthy says the plain clothed officers will be placed at the perimeter of the Taste as well as the limited number of entrance points. To prevent violence outside of the event, the superintendent says there is a plan in place to provide a safe way in and out.

"We are going to have officers posted in between the transportation hubs, at the transportation hubs, on the transportation hubs and in and out of the actual event itself," he said.

Video surveillance will also be enhanced.

"OEMC personnel will be monitoring surveillance cameras in and around the Taste footprint in order to direct city resources as needed," said Gary Schenkel, Office of Emergency Management and Commications.

Police are hoping slight changes will reduce the number of arrests.

"We just had Blues Fest. We tried things a little different. We had not one arrest," said Commander Matt Tobias.

City officials implemented big changes in security after several people were shot following the July 3rd fireworks show in 2008. Bags were checked at designated entryways and fencing was added to control the crowds.

For vendors, the enhanced security has made a big difference.

"Last year on site, I don't think anything really happened. This year we're hoping nothing happens," said Nick Mallory, Oak Street Beach and Cafe.

"It really has changed the atmosphere down here to where it is a family friendly clientele," said Lynn Sapp, Original Rainbow Cone.

This year is the first time the Chicago Park District - rather than the Mayor's Office of Special Events - is running the Taste of Chicago. The park district has changed the hours of the Taste of Chicago. The festival will close at 8:30 p.m. rather than 9:00 p.m. On the final day, July 3, the Taste will close at 6:00 p.m. and will be no fireworks. There will be a Disney concert beginning at 3:00 in the afternoon that day.

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