Lake County police to continue heavy presence to deter looting
Following a quiet Monday night, Lake County police departments are continuing with greater police presence this week to deter the kind of looting committed Sunday in Waukegan and Beach Park.
Throughout the county, officers sat in marked police cars outside major shopping centers and businesses, including the Gurnee Mills mall, where police have been present since Sunday evening.
"Monday night we got it together and today we can speak there were no arrests, nobody injured, nothing damaged," said Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham at a news conference with other Lake County leaders Tuesday.
About 100 people looted businesses in northern Waukegan and Beach Park Sunday and 10 were arrested, according to Lake County sheriff's Sgt. Christopher Covelli. Covelli said those looting were from the area and are believed to be separate from those who had been part of a peaceful protest.
As with hundreds of similar protests, people came out in Waukegan Sunday to express anger at last week's death of George Floyd, who begged for his life as a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck. Days later, the officer was charged with murder.
Gurnee police spokeswoman Shawn Gaylor said Gurnee Mills was opened briefly on Monday but the decision was made to close after police found online threats that it was to be looted. The mall remained closed throughout the day Tuesday, but Gaylor said officials intend to open Wednesday.
Gaylor said the department is being proactive to prevent looting.
"It's about having officers visible throughout the evening," Gaylor said. "If there are people interested in causing harm to the town, they'll see the police presence and go elsewhere."
Vernon Hills police spokesman Jeff Hemesath said the department doesn't have specific information regarding threats to the village, which includes Hawthorn Mall, but said officers will remain vigilant.
"Similar to the past few nights, there will be a heavy police presence in our retail areas and throughout the community," Hemesath said. Highland Park officials announced that while there were no verified threats to the city, police increased their presence and will enact precautions such as closing Route 41 exits from 9 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday.
The ramp closures on Route 41 are scheduled for east- and westbound Park Avenue West, eastbound Central Avenue, westbound Deerfield Road and east- and westbound Clavey Road. Officials said the ramp closures are intended to allow the city to deploy resources efficiently and effectively.
Lake County Board Chairwoman Sandy Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat, stood with Cunningham and his mother, Board Vice Chairwoman Mary Ross-Cunningham, at a news conference Tuesday in Waukegan and urged residents to continue to be peaceful.
"I stand in solidarity for all who support and participate in peaceful protests and bring about the change that is so long overdue for the most vulnerable," Hart said.
Cunningham said he and other Lake County leaders are listening to what peaceful protesters are saying.
"We don't have all the answers but we're in a position to listen to you so we can get the answers to execute so we can have a good place to live and work," Cunningham said.
• Daily Herald reporter Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.