Chicago Authorities to Monitor Social Media Amid Looting Threats, Lightfoot Says

The specialized 20-person unit will monitor social media platforms around the clock

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Chicago police created a social media task force to monitor online activity that could indicate future plans of looting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday.

In response to recent looting throughout the city, Lightfoot said the 20-person unit within the Crime Prevention and Information Center will be focused on 24-hour social media monitoring of all open source information.

"As we've seen over these past few months, social media platforms have repeatedly been used to organize large groups of people to engage in illegal activity," Lightfoot said.

Using technology and data analytics, the task force will review key term searches and relevant pages or accounts previously used to organize looting activity, according to the Chicago Mayor's Office.

Joining forces with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, CPD formed a Task Force of Detectives to specifically manage looting cases and hold more individuals accountable.

"This task force is already reviewing video camera footage and other evidence to identify perpetrators and develop strong cases against them," the Mayor's Office said.

Chicago police threatened to puncture tires, block streets and tow cars as part of their efforts to capture looters, should any come to the city this weekend, less than one week after authorities said "caravans" of people damaged countless area businesses.

"We want to send a message," Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Thursday. "If you come downtown or to any one of our retail corridors in the neighborhoods of Chicago to loot, CPD is going to arrest you. If someone is attempting to break windows to loot, CPD is going to arrest you. If you're going in our stores that have been broken into in attempt to loot, CPD is going to arrest you. If you are carrying or transporting merchandise from a store that has been looted, you will be stopped and arrested. We are going to deploy all tactics necessary to prevent and stop looting."

Already, Chicago police have outlined new strategies to combat looting heading into the weekend, with an increase of 1,000 officers expected. The department also extended Chicago officers' hours and canceled days off, Brown said, reiterating, "this is our town; it doesn't belong to the criminals."

"We've increased our numbers on the street, on the ground, in our downtown area, in our neighborhoods," Brown said. "That's the number one difference. We have extended hours that our officers work, we have extended the number of days they work in a week by canceling days off. So there is an increase of 1,000 officers above what would normally be here."

The Chicago Police Department released several videos of looting incidents that took place early Monday morning. Detectives are asking the public to look at the videos and help identify potential suspects.

More than 100 people were arrested and numerous businesses were damaged early Monday as looting and chaotic scenes erupted throughout the city. As of Thursday, at least 42 of those arrested were facing felony charges, according to Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office.

Access to the city's central business district will remain restricted during overnight hours throughout the weekend, with street closures, bridge lifts, ramp blockages and transit reroutes all expected. Check points will allow only residents and area employees to enter.

Brown warned that other tactics will also be used, if necessary, should additional incidents arise.

"We are going to deploy all tactics necessary to prevent and stop looting," Brown said. "If that means deploying stop strips to puncture your tires if you're caravaning cars to loot, we will disable your cars to prevent the caravan and we will work very hard to do so. If that means deploying tow trucks to impound your cars that are caravaning to loot, CPD will do so. If that means blocking off streets and boxing in caravans of looters, CPD will work to do so. If you get away from us, we will work with our state and our federal partners to find you and punish you."

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