Chicago officials pledge swift response to theft, vandalism

Chicago officials under pressure to reassure residents after hundreds of people vandalized and stole from downtown businesses pledged Friday to respond forcefully to any similar attempts during the weekend.

Flanked by local and federal officials at a press conference near the city’s lakefront, Mayor Lori Lightfoot outlined the strategy that includes a Chicago Police team to monitor social media around the clock for efforts to organize looting or other crime.

Police blamed some of the chaos Sunday night and early Monday on people who used social media to organize car caravans, bringing dozens together to ransack stores and other businesses downtown.

Monitoring public social media posts for similar plans this weekend will let police and other city agencies quickly respond before commercial areas become targets, Lightfoot said.

The city’s plan also includes using large trucks and concrete barriers if needed to limit access to commercial areas, along with enlisting help from state troopers for traffic control. Police Superintendent David Brown said citywide teams will be deployed as needed to back up local police patrols.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from people: They’re nervous, they’re scared, they’re worried, they’re thinking about whether or not their life can continue as they expect it to in this great city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said. “So we’ve got to restore confidence, by making sure that the measures that we take are proactive, that we are aggressive, and that when someone dares challenge our resolve that we hold them responsible.”

A police task force formed this week is separately working with the local FBI office to identify suspects from the past week. Brown also told reporters Thursday that he’s prepared to disable, tow or box in cars used by people joining in organized theft or vandalism.

“Chicago does not, I repeat, does not belong to looters and thieves,” Brown said.

The abrupt targeting of businesses downtown followed police firing at a Black man on the South Side on Sunday.

Latrell Allen, 20, appeared in court Tuesday on charges of attempted murder and was ordered held on a $1 million bond. Police said he fired at officers before they returned fire and wounded him. Authorities have said they found a gun at the scene, but they acknowledge that the officers who shot him were not wearing cameras.