Fueled by social media, trespassing has risen at Arlington Park since Bears took over, police say
The shuttered Arlington Park property has seen an uptick in trespassing and related incidents -- fueled by social media -- since the Bears took possession of the sprawling property earlier this year, police records show.
After the Bears closed on their purchase on Feb. 15 and hired private security to patrol the site 24/7, Arlington Heights police have logged 18 calls for service at 2200 W. Euclid Ave. from the security company, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
That includes nine incidents of trespassing, five reports of suspicious persons, one suspicious incident, two unwanted subjects and one burglary.
In most cases, the suspects got away before cops or P4 Security Solutions, the Bears' on-site security firm, could apprehend them. But authorities did arrest and charge two people: Justin A. Zara, 20, of Des Plaines, on a burglary charge May 20, and Adam J. Andrade, 21, of Harvard, on a charge of criminal trespass to real property on June 19.
Even after the last horse race at the local oval in the fall of 2021, teens were caught trespassing as part of a TikTok social media challenge to take videos at certain locales, said Police Chief Nick Pecora. Many more of those videos started popping up online in recent months.
"There were various platforms where there was a challenge to post a picture of yourself in an abandoned piece of property, and this one happened to be Arlington Park," Pecora said. "Initially, it was TikTok, then it moved to Instagram, and then it moved onto Reddit."
Reports of trespassing in and around the six-story grandstand have gone down since the Bears started interior demolition on June 16 -- save for a couple of calls for drones over the fence capturing the teardown in progress.
But Bears security recently saw flashlights on the third floor; when police arrived, they determined it was too hazardous to go inside and didn't see anybody still there, Pecora said.
"It looked like a war zone inside there with holes in the floor and ceiling," he said.
Andrade was taken into custody three days after demolition started. An officer and security guard apprehended him as he was running west from the grandstand, according to the police report.
He is due in court Aug. 2.
Zara's arrest on burglary charges came after police said they found him with a bag of lock-picking tools. A security guard initially spotted him hiding behind chairs on the fourth floor of the grandstand, the police report said.
He is due in court Aug. 11.
A number of "no trespassing" signs have been posted all around the property, and P4 has staff members on site 24/7, including someone in a vehicle with flashing lights roving the grounds, Pecora said.
Police respond when security calls to report a crime in progress but otherwise don't have an officer solely dedicated to patrolling the racetrack, he said.
The Bears' security division has said it wants a "zero-tolerance approach regarding incidents at the property and will sign complaints," police said.