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Local police are prepared in wake of worldwide alert

  • Written by Joe Boyle

A meeting is scheduled for this week among members of the Chicago Ridge Police Department and officials at the Chicago Ridge Mall to discuss security after calls for a three-month worldwide alert following the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility of the attacks that occurred several minutes apart at a soccer stadium, concert hall and restaurant in Paris on Nov. 13. The attacks resulted in 130 dead and over 350 injured.

As a result, cities across the U.S. and the municipalities that surround them are dealing with how to prepare for any unusual activity at businesses, schools and shopping centers.

Chicago Ridge is one of the first southwest suburban villages to be mentioned due to the presence of the Chicago Ridge Mall, which features 120 stores and a variety of events taking place to mark the holiday season.

While ISIS has mentioned malls as possible American targets, Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said his staff and police department will proceed with diligence as they have in the past.

“We are going to be stepping up our patrols at the Chicago Ridge Mall,” said Tokar. “Well, you know what, we should be doing that. There will be larger police presence at the mall. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is.”

Tokar said that he has not been notified directly by Homeland Security. However, he did say that Homeland Security contacted Chicago Ridge Police Chief Rob Pyznarski on Nov. 23. Tokar added that was to be expected because of the mall. The mayor said the police department has gone through extensive training and prepare for the possibility of an attack.

“Our police department has gone through a lot of training,” added Tokar. “So, this is not new. We are increasing patrols there (the Chicago Ridge Mall). It’s the right thing to do.”

The U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert on Nov. 23 for American citizens for the next three months due to a reported rise in terrorist threats. The state department is not only concerned about ISIS, but al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups. They believe more terrorist attacks in various regions are planned.

The alert will continue until Feb. 24 after ISIS said they were not only responsible for the Paris attacks, but also for the downing of a Russian plane in Egypt that killed 224 people.

Oak Lawn, which has a population of 56,690, does not have a mall but does have an assortment of businesses along 95th Street and Cicero Avenue. The Stony Creek Promenade, at 111th and Cicero, has seen rapid development in the past couple of years, and is anchored by Mariano’s and Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant.

Mayor Sandra Bury said that she would not be contacted directly by Homeland Security. The Oak Lawn Police Department Emergency Management Agency would be the first to be notified by Homeland Security if suspicious activity or a physical threat was targeting the village.

While Oak Lawn may not have a mall, they still could be a target, the mayor said.

“We have the Advocate Christ Medical Center, which is the largest trauma center in this area,” said Bury. “We also supply water for communities to the south.”

The mayor said the Emergency Management Agency is well trained and conduct mock drills on how to complete tasks during a heightened alert.

Evergreen Park once had The Plaza, a well- known mall that became dated over the years and is in the process of being demolished. However, Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton said the village has been attracting lots of businesses during the past few years. He is aware of the worldwide alert but is confident in his police force.

“We have not heard from the Office of Homeland Security,” said Sexton. “But we get daily alerts. Hey, our guys (police department) have been on high alert since 9/11. We have schools and businesses that we check on.”

Sexton said the police department has undergone extensive training and receive daily alerts.

“We have not had any credible threat to Evergreen Park and the surrounding areas,” said Sexton. “However, that doesn’t mean were not ready.”