All three of the police agencies serving the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark’s coverage area have formally alerted residents to “intelligence” gathered from social media about the potential for a large number of people to gather at a North Riverside shopping center on April 22.
However, on April 20, a day after the information was first made public, police have tempered the alert, saying the original social media post announcing the gathering had been taken down on April 18 and that police “have received no further intelligence to corroborate a gathering will take place.”
North Riverside Police Chief Christian Ehrenberg said local police agencies would continue to coordinate “preventative measures” and would deploy a “unified response” if it materializes.
Since local police issued notifications about the potential gathering on the afternoon of April 19, the information has been widely disseminated on social media and made its way to Chicago daily newspapers and TV and radio news outlets.
As a result of that publicity, the gathering’s organizers may be planning to move it somewhere else. Additional social media posts have been shared in the past day warning of another gathering at Millennium Park in Chicago on April 22.
“There’s really no way to know,” said Ehrenberg when asked about the likelihood of a large gathering materializing due to the spread of information regarding it.
Local police have been planning their response since first getting word of the social media post earlier this week.
“We look at all the contingencies,” said Riverside Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley. “It’s like a chess game.”
Email notifications from North Riverside, Brookfield and Riverside police followed in the wake of a “community alert” posted by Berwyn police on the department’s Facebook page on April 19.
Berwyn police initially reported that the gathering was to take place during the afternoon in the area near the North Riverside Park Mall, saying it appeared similar to “what was reported on in the city of Chicago last weekend” and “has the potential for public disturbances and acts of violence.”
North Riverside police subsequently reported that people were being asked to gather at 4 p.m. at Urban Air in the North Riverside Park Plaza shopping center east of the mall.
The heightened security comes less than a week after a large gathering in the heart of Chicago’s Loop on April 15 resulted in fights, damaged vehicles and two people being wounded by gunfire.
Also in recent weeks, suburban communities have experienced street and parking lot takeovers, where large numbers of vehicles arrive suddenly at a specific location, organized on social media, and drive recklessly inside a perimeter blocked by other vehicles.
One of the most recent happened on the night of April 8 in the parking lot of the Cermak Plaza shopping center in Berwyn.
Berwyn and Cicero also experienced street takeovers in late March. The intersection of 31st Street and Maple Avenue in Brookfield was the scene of a street takeover on the night of March 26 and Brookfield police dispersed a gathering of dozens of young people on the night of April 15 near Ehlert Park.
“We’re hoping this won’t be anyone’s problem, but it’s not expected to be a Brookfield problem,” said Brookfield Police Chief Michael Kuruvilla, whose department announced an “awareness alert” on April 19 about the possibility of a large gathering in North Riverside this weekend.
“We felt an obligation for residents locally to be aware and to know that we are aware,” Kuruvilla said.
While it’s unknown what, if any, type of gathering will materialize this weekend, local police have succeeded in the past in deterring them by widely broadcasting their knowledge of them in advance.
“Our thing is we try to over plan and then scale them back going forward [based on what happens],” Buckley said.
Once in May 2019 and twice in December 2019, North Riverside police were able to head off social media calls for large gatherings at North Riverside Park Mall. In one instance, police were waiting at bus stops and shopping center entrance doors to immediately turn away anyone under the age of 18 arriving without adult supervision.
North Riverside Park Mall will often preemptively enforce its youth escort policy in the face of a potential problem, as they did both times in December 2019.
Glenn Lindholm, general manager of the North Riverside Park Mall told the Landmark that the shopping center intends to enforce its youth supervision policy all day on April 22 and have planned to increase security staffing that day.
“We’re working closely with local police to monitor the situation,” Lindholm said.