CHICAGO — After Chicago police arrested dozens in a series of raids Wednesday morning, officials say 1,500 extra officers will also be on the streets this weekend as part of a plan for preventing violence and keeping people safe over the Fourth of July holiday.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said they are taking an “all hands on deck” approach to prepare for the holiday, including a higher number of additional officers than were called in for Memorial Day. This also includes a targeted use of resources, especially where conflicts have been brewing.
In a series of raids Wednesday morning, police officials say they arrested 77 people and seized nearly a dozen firearms and half a million dollars worth of drugs and cash.
The arrests were made as part of an enforcement effort dubbed “Operation Independence” by CPD’s Organized Crime Bureau. Those arrested were mostly previously convicted felons, gun offenders and documented gang members, police said.
“One of the assault rifles that we recovered has a drum on it capable of holding 100 rounds of ammunition and it’s in the hands of a street gang member. That’s a pretty scary thing,” said Deputy Police Superintendent Anthony Riccio.
In its announcement, CPD said around 180 people have been arrested in total, taking into account several undercover operations from the last few months. The department is in the middle of a multi-pronged effort to get guns, drugs, and people they say are engaged in criminal activity off the streets, and prevent the usual summer surge of gun violence in the city of Chicago.
“When we conduct these operations, we don’t want the low level guys that are selling drugs on the street corner. We want the guys calling the shots,” said Riccio. “A lot of time, the guy calling the shots for the narcotics dealing, are the same guys calling the shots for the shootings and for the violence.”
BREAKING – #ChicagoPolice Organized Crime Bureau has completed a pre-holiday gun and drug takedown. 77 people have been arrested and nearly a dozen weapons recovered in Operation Independence. A media briefing will be held this morning at 11a @ CPD HQ. pic.twitter.com/SYGF0oE8R2
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) July 3, 2019
Increased enforcement efforts over the holiday weekend includes those 1,500 additional officers, who CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson said will be around crowded areas like beaches, lakefronts, parks, and transit hubs. Organized crime specialists will also be changed to undercover patrol duty.
Johnson said new summer mobile teams, made up of many police officers new to the department, can be quickly deployed if areas need more attention. There will also be 40 officers assigned to the CTA, patrolling stations and riding transit, and 100 officers will be assigned to the lakefront and city parks.
Additionally, neighborhoods are making an effort to prevent violence, Johnson said. Faith leaders will be walking through areas prone to violence Wednesday night in CPD’s 15th District. More than a dozen liquor stores agreed to close early in the area as well.
The Chicago Park District’s Mike Kelly said it’s the busiest weekend of the year, with family picnics, events and festivals all coming together. This includes the Crosstown Classic, Windy City Ribfest, Fireworks at Navy Pier, Chosen Few Picnic and Festival, West Fest and street closures for Taste of Chicago all taking place. Kelly said all beaches and pools and 104 parks will also be open through the weekend.
“We’re in the fun business; we want people in the parks, we want people on the lakefront,” Kelly said.
With rain threatening during the July 4th celebrations at Navy Pier, OEMC Executive Director Rich Guidice said they believe things will clear up after 7 p.m., but the Pier itself can hold 60,000 people if they should need to shelter in place.
Lightfoot advised people heading into the city to use public transportation, and said swimmers should be careful about jumping into the lake’s cold waters.
“Don’t be fooled by the warm weather, if you’re not a strong swimmer you may be putting yourself at risk,” Lightfoot said.