Chicago police ready for Taste opening

June 25, 2009 (CHICAGO) Chicago police are taking what they've learned from Barack Obama's election night in Grant Park and applying the same exact security enhancements to Taste.

One thing that they're doing differently this year, never before done at the Taste of Chicago, is they're actually going to have entryways. They're going to have four access points, one at Congress, Jackson, Balbo and Monroe, all in an effort to control the crowd.

As vendors prepare for the 29th Taste of Chicago, so does the police. Chicago Superintendent Jody Weis promises big security changes this year. The city's top cop took a lot of heat last year after one person was killed and several people were injured in a gang-related shooting just a few blocks from the Taste.

"If we get any indication that some of the troublemakers are coming into town, we're going to confront them. We're going to talk to them and discourage them from coming down here if their only intent is to cause trouble," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department. Police hope to keep the bad guys away through intelligence, a large police presence at Loop train stations and bus stops, and constantly monitoring security cameras. But the most visible change is controlling crowds by putting in place four entrances. These access points will be manned by uniformed police officers as well as private security. "They will be looking at what attendees are bringing into the festival and how they will be conducting themselves. Any illegal items or activity will be addressed immediately," said Megan McDonald, Mayor's Office of Special Events.

Despite the beefed up security, Weis and the Mayor's Office of Special Events say the taste will not be a police state.

"There is no metal detectors. Ninety percent of the people that come down here will not even realize that there's any difference. It's the people that are coming down here to do things that are not allowed in the festival that are going to notice a difference. And that's exactly what we want," said McDonald.

Vendors and their customers welcome the added security. Reggio's Pizza has been a Taste regular for 20 years and so far has not had any security problems.

"I've been more than happy with the security that the Chicago Police Department has provided over the years at the Taste," said John Clark, Reggio's Pizza.

The Taste opens Friday morning at 11 a.m. It runs through July 5.

Superintendent Weis says, with 1 million people coming, there are no guarantees that something won't happen. But he says at least it will not be because of a lack of planning and training from the Chicago Police Department.

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