McHenry County Local News

Highland Park shooting leads McHenry County police departments to review security plans for public events

Increased police presence at some events, calling on residents to report suspicious activity, included in plans

Brooke and Matt Strauss, who were married Sunday, pause after leaving their wedding bouquets in downtown Highland Park, Ill., near the scene of Monday's mass shooting Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Highland Park, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

After a shooting at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade left seven people dead and many more injured, police agencies across McHenry County are keeping tight-lipped about any potential changes to security at public events.

“In an effort to keep the integrity of the pre-planning of our special events intact, I’m not at liberty to discuss our police tactics or operational planning mechanisms,” Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said in an email.

Huntley Police Chief Robert Porter gave a similar answer, but added that after shooting events, such as with school shootings, it’s typical for the department to increase its presence.

A similar approach for future events may be expected, he said. They also receive help from residents who can help act as “eyes and ears,” he said.

“We don’t publicize pre-event planning,” Porter said. “Just increased visibility.”

The Highland Park shooter opened fire Monday at the city’s Independence Day parade from a rooftop and was taken into custody hours later after initially getting away from the scene. Along with seven people who were killed, about 40 more were injured as a result.

In response to the news out of Highland Park Monday, Huntley opted to postpone its firework display until its make-up day in September, Porter said.

Woodstock, however, carried on with its event Monday night, which included a fireworks display.

The Marengo police and fire departments kick off the Children's Pet Parade during the annual Settlers Days events on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Marengo.

In a social media post leading up to the event Monday afternoon, Mayor Mike Turner said Woodstock police officers would be “present … and vigilant to enhance the safety of all who attend.”

“All Woodstock residents share the shock and dismay for what happened in Highland Park. Public safety is always paramount for gatherings in the City of Woodstock,” Turner said in the post.

The day after the display, on Tuesday, Woodstock City Manager Roscoe Stelford said police presence is already high at events, which typically brings out almost all of the department as it is.

“I don’t think [the department] has any more to give,” he said. “I know it’s a challenging thing because you hope it’s an isolated incident. But we also want to adapt.”

Active shooter training is also something that many communities have begun doing, Stelford said.

Even though departments aren’t publicizing potential plans, reviewing and updating plans, particularly after such events as in Highland Park, are par for the course.

Crystal Lake is always reviewing and updating its special event plans, and reviewing them after the fact to see what improvements can be made, Black said.

For upcoming events, such as the Pistakee Bay Fireworks show in Johnsburg, organizer Tom Fuchs said the show will go on as planned just after dusk on Saturday. Going on for about 15 years, the event has grown and always had security, he said.

Bouncers and Johnsburg police patrol the event, ambulances are nearby just in case, but there have never been any problems, he said. This year will be no different.

“We are not going be changing a whole lot,” he said. “We haven’t gone panicky [over] it. We are just a little town in the middle of nowhere. I don’t expect anything [to happen].”

In Huntley, if there were to be some type of direct threat, the department has resources, such as more police officers and specific policing units, it can access through mutual aid, Porter said.

Porter also encouraged residents to report if they see something suspicious, which was something other departments echoed as well.

“Our officers and staff are always transparent,” Porter said. “If you see something out of the ordinary, call us. Our community is very good about that.”