Police boost presence at Taste of Chicago

July 3, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Ticket sales at Taste were scheduled to end at 6 p.m. Saturday so that at 7 p.m., on the dot, Chicago police officers could help usher everybody out in an orderly manner. That is a process they will repeat Sunday, when for the first time, the food fest will close well in advance of the city's fireworks displays.

The Taste of Chicago wrapped up early Saturday night, but that is not stopping the city's top cop from boosting security for the festival's final weekend and for Sunday's separate fireworks displays.

"We cancelled everybody's day off for (the Fourth of July), and that will give us over 600 additional officers, and we needed to do that just to cover the territory. Again, it does stretch our resources out a little bit, and we don't know right now where the largest crowds will go to, so we wanted to have a reserve force," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.

Referring to Thursday's spate of violence, when 22 people were arrested and three stabbed in the Grant Park area, Weis once again insisted that the events were an anomaly, and that for the most part the Taste of Chicago has gone smoothly, with the number of arrests slightly below last year's levels.

Still, those in attendance had mixed views on security at the food fest.

"I have not seen a big police presence, actually," said Melissa Morreale. "And when we did come in they really didn't do that through of a check with our baggage."

"I'm glad that they are actually enforcing security a little more. It looks like they're actually taking care of business this year," said Adewale Langston.

Hoping to keep crowds to a minimum, and to avoid the security problems that have sometimes plagued the city's annual fireworks celebration, this year the traditional Grant Park July 3 display has been moved to July 4 and will be broken up into three smaller simultaneous displays at Montrose Harbor, Navy Pier and 63rd Street Beach. The shows will begin at 9 p.m. Sunday night.

The separate fireworks displays account for the Taste of Chicago being open only from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.--that is to give people plenty of time to get to the display of their choice.

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