CHICAGO (WLS) -- Events like the Millennium Park tree lighting and holiday shopping will bring a lot more people downtown in the coming weeks, and so Chicago police and retail organizations are working to reassure visitors and shoppers that they are keeping things safe.
"Chicago goes all out. There's all the lights, there's the holiday train, the parade that's happening this week," Chicago resident Stefanie Bittner said.
CPD Superintendent David Brown discussed safety efforts alongside business leaders Friday as the holiday season in downtown Chicago gets underway.
"We have resources to ensure it's safe, we have a response plan to ensure that if there are any threats that we respond to that quickly and that you are going to be safe coming downtown," he said.
Brown said that Chicago police are building relationships with businesses heading into the holiday season from downtown to Pilsen and other neighborhoods to deter criminal activity. Some business groups are also doing their part to help ensure safety.
"We've also just engaged off duty law enforcement to augment that which the Chicago Police Department and the Sheriff's office are providing. And that will be in effect through the end of the year," said Kimberly Bares, president and CEO of the Magnificent Mile Association. "We want to make sure that people have the best holiday season they can possible have here on Michigan Avenue."
These heightened efforts come ahead of some of the biggest and most popular Chicago holiday festivities, including the Christkindlmarket, the Millennium Park tree lighting ceremony and the Mag Mile Lights Festival, all of which draw thousands and thousands of people into the city.
"I am a sucker for the winter. I love the lights and how beautiful everything gets," Chicago resident Augusto Serrato said.
Brown said keeping the shoppers safe is a community effort.
"Already, officers are sharing safety tips with the business community and with residents who ride the CTA and we will continue to do that outreach throughout the holiday season," Brown said. "Our officers will be out, not just on foot patrols, but they will be out patrolling in their marked squad cars in the community, working to keep everyone safe and sacrificing the precious time they want to spend with their families."
The Chicago Loop Alliance reports that recent pedestrian traffic along State Street is within 25% of 2019 levels, despite some safety concerns.
"I always tell people you just have to pay attention to where you're going. You always have to be aware of your surroundings," Serrato said.
Serrato said he doesn't let the threat of potential criminal activity dictate how he lives his life, especially this time of the year.
"You have to be smart about what time you go out and where you go, but, in general, no fears, no hesitancy," Serrato said.
The Loop and Near North Side accounted for one in four retail thefts in the city over the past year, but overall that total number is down from 2019 by 35%.