2024 solar eclipse presents some unusual concerns for law enforcement

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Saturday, April 6, 2024
Eclipse causing unusual concerns for law enforcement
The eclipse will draw unchecked crowds in public places that should be considered terror targets. They also need to be prepared for drug overdoses as viewers try to enhance their e

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The solar eclipse of 2024 brings with it some hidden threats that are being laid out in a new special bulletin from Illinois State Police. According to the alert, the total eclipse of the sun on Monday will draw unchecked crowds in public places that should be considered terror targets. Local authorities also need to be prepared for drug overdoses as eclipse viewers try to enhance their experience.

At the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center in Springfield, State Police analysts will replace highway maps on the big screens with the Illinois eclipse path.

According to the bulletin "Special Event Impact Analysis" dated next Monday and obtained by the I-Team, STIC authorities will track 21 special events considered "soft targets" for violent extremists.

"Sites or events (that) are attractive due to ease of access, fewer security restrictions, and the opportunity to inflict mass casualties," the bulletin said. "Large crowds are expected along Illinois' eclipse route, as in 2017. This Monday up to a quarter million could turn out "increasing the attractiveness of targeting mass groups of people."

"If you look at that map, 99% of those municipalities have very few police officers. There's very little public safety resources down there. You've got the state police, you've got the county sheriff's departments and you've got municipal departments. But they're going to be stretched very, very, very thin, trying to deal with all this," said former metro Chicago law enforcement official and ABC7 police affairs consultant Bill Kushner. "Some solar eclipse viewers could use opioids due to their perceived belief that their viewing will be enhanced or intensified. Drug-related medical emergencies should be expected."

A science journal study found that during the 2017 eclipse, U.S. illicit drug use spiked. Researchers analyzed wastewater and public sewage samples to determine cocaine and methamphetamine use was way up.

"They're into some type of alternative belief system where their experience with the eclipse is going to be enhanced by using some type of opioid substance, be it a pill, an injection. So, law enforcement needs to have Narcan available. Again, the big issue is, do these venues have Narcan available for their staff?" said Kushner.

The drug overdose threat is real according to law enforcement officials, especially based on the last eclipse in 2017.

As for the risk of an attack by violent extremists, Illinois State Police tell the I-Team that their intelligence is not currently tracking any specific threats towards eclipse related events or locations.