Taste Begins With Tighter Security - NBC Chicago

Taste Begins With Tighter Security

Police Supt. McCarthy says more surveillance, more undercover cops will help keep Taste safe



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    More surveillance cameras and extra undercover cops are part of Supt. Garry McCarthy's police strategy to keep this year's Taste of Chicago safe.

    In the wake of recent mob robberies downtown and along the lakefront, Taste security will be tighter both in and around the annual food festival, kicking off at 11 a.m. Friday.

    McCarthy told reporters this week that he intends to create a safe path to and from CTA and Metra, with officers posted between and around stations, and even on trains.

    "We're also going to have plainclothes officers in the crowd looking for any possibly unruly behavior," McCarthy said, "or indication that any crimes might be occurring."

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    Numbered markers on lampposts throughout the fest were posted to help the Office of Emergency Management and police respond quickly to calls for assistance. Helicopters will help police monitor the crowd, as well.

    This is the first year the Chicago Park District hosts Taste of Chicago, taking it over from the city after former Mayor Richard Daley tried privatizing the festival earlier this year. For the first time, Taste will not run Fourth of July fireworks. Navy Pier got the job instead, and Taste will close at 6 p.m. on July 3.

    In 2009, a teen headed to Taste fireworks was arrested for carrying a sawed-off shotgun. In 2008, four people were shot in the Loop after fireworks ended.

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    Earlier this year, North Avenue Beach was closed on Memorial Day for high heat, though new 911 tapes show fights were part of the problem. On June 7, seven people were arrested for mob action after a group of young men attacked and beat a man on Northwestern University’s Streeterville campus.

    Since then, several mob attacks were reported in Streeterville and along the lakefront. But Chicago Police want to keep that a bay during Taste.

    "The citizens of Chicago who come to visit [Taste], guests that come to visit, are going to be the benefactor of a team that understands what interdependence is," said Officer Matt Tobias this week. "For months we have been working, and there are years of experience in this team."