The cold, sleety weather over the weekend probably helped, but an anticipated “large gathering” never did materialize in the vicinity of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road last weekend.

A number of police agencies – most notably Berwyn’s – began alerting people via social media that they’d received credible intelligence that some sort of large gathering would be happening on April 22 beginning in the late afternoon hours in the area near North Riverside Park Mall.

Berwyn police described the gathering as “much like what was reported on in the city of Chicago last weekend,” referring to a large disturbance near Millennium Park that resulted in vehicles being damaged, fights and gunfire.

Of course, that warning spread like wildfire over Facebook and North Riverside, Brookfield and Riverside police followed up with similar messages to residents, garnering the attention of TV and radio news and Chicago’s daily newspapers.

No doubt all of the attention had the effect of sending a message that local police would be ready for any sort of gathering, and anything that had been organized was quickly dropped.

However, we subsequently found out that the call for the gathering was taken down two days before Berwyn made its announcement regarding the possibility of it happening and that no other such posts had followed. 

So how real was this? We don’t really know.

Of course, there have been spontaneous, disruptive large gatherings of young people at the mall in past years, ones police subsequently learned were organized via social media, so these things have happened and are likely to continue happening.

Local officials really walk a fine line with how much to make of these “trends,” because it’s bad PR, bad for business and these aren’t sure things. It’s a tough call.

The social media reaction was a predictable mix of concern, hysteria and racism. North Riverside Park Mall inevitably was trashed as a cesspool by people who likely have never visited it or haven’t in a very long time. Throw in a little daydream vigilantism and you get the picture.

By all accounts, the mall instituted its youth supervision policy all day on April 22 and there was plenty of police and security presence – as well as a least one, no doubt disappointed, TV news crew — to deter whoever the weather did not. It was a quiet Saturday in April in North Riverside.

North Riverside police did an admirable job working with its neighbors to devise a flexible response that could be adjusted as events dictated.

However, we can be sure this won’t be the last such “advisory” as the weather improves. Here’s hoping for continued excellent police intelligence gathering to head off incidents and for people to not immediately assume the worst when that intelligence is shared.