Large Security Presence at the 2019 Taste of Chicago Leaves Residents Feeling Uneasy, but Safe

By Demarco Trammell, Briana Higgins and Sharon Sanders, Criminal Justice Reform Reporters, The Real Chi

Despite the large security presence and bag check at the 39th annual Taste of Chicago, locals in attendance were not intimidated by law enforcement officials overseeing the event.

More than 100 police officers were deployed daily to patrol and navigate the crowds at the event, according to Chicago Police Department’s Office of Communications. The department projected 1.6 million people in attendance this year. CPD came equipped with guns, mace, handcuffs, batons and other weapons. Additionally, various undercover police officers, Chicago Fire Department officials, United Security and event staff monitored the crowds.

But even with law enforcement and security present, Chicago resident Uche Omoniyi cautioned people to stay alert.

“Keep your eyes open, you know, be aware for things like pickpockets and snatching of cell phones and that kind of thing...Don't flash money, if you can, keep your cell phone in your pocket,” Omioniyi said.

In 2013, Illinois passed the Firearm Concealed Carry Act which enabled individuals to get a license and legally carry a gun. Based on the City of Chicago’s data portal five arrests were made at last year’s Taste, two involving a firearm. Although guns were banned from the event, firearm safety came to at least one visitor’s mind while attending the Taste.

Charles Perry, a representative of the Violence Reduction Strategy Team -- an initiative by CPD to decrease violent crimes in the community -- expressed his concerns about how the act could affect the turnout of the function.

“We’re in a carry and conceal state right now. And there's no signs that I've seen that said no guns allowed. So if law enforcement didn't have them, that means every individual, legal and illegal could have a gun,” Perry said.

According to CPD’s Office of Communications, due to the annual growth of the Taste the officers employed extra measures including devising deployment plans and debriefing meetings after the event to evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies. These meetings are an opportunity for CPD to discusses which strategies worked and what can be improved for each event.

Meanwhile, residents like Omoniyi found other ways to protect himself.

“I keep a prayer in my heart. I'm very close to God. And I feel that my prayers will be answered. And one of my prayers constantly is for protection” said Omoniyi.