After Waukesha tragedy, what suburban organizers are doing to ensure safety at parades, events

  • A family visits a memorial in Waukesha, Wis., Tuesday, two days after an SUV plowed into a Christmas parade, killing five people and injuring scores more.

    A family visits a memorial in Waukesha, Wis., Tuesday, two days after an SUV plowed into a Christmas parade, killing five people and injuring scores more. Associated Press

Posted11/24/2021 5:10 AM

Organizers of upcoming suburban holiday parades and events are double-checking security preparations after five people were killed and dozens injured Sunday when an SUV plowed into marchers and the crowd at an event in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee suburb's Christmas parade, like others in many communities, has been a decadeslong tradition. Sunday's tragedy has prompted officials in Chicago's suburbs to revisit their procedures and, in some cases, make adjustments.


In addition to concrete barriers and police officers stationed along the route for East and West Dundee's Dickens in Dundee parade on Saturday, Dec. 4, large public works vehicles will be stationed at the beginning and end of the parade, for example.

The events in Waukesha reinforce the gravity of the responsibilities communities and organizers bear for public safety, said West Dundee Village Manager Joe Cavallaro.

"Obviously, this is one of the greatest fears you have when organizing a community event," he said.

The placement of substantial barricades and big trucks, along with ensuring only authorized vehicles are allowed in the parade path, also has been the protocol in Naperville, where the 2021 Holiday of Lights is set for 7 p.m. Friday.

The city's police and public works departments and special events team are going over details to see if additional security is needed.

"We were already in a pretty great spot as far as safety was concerned, but they are reviewing everything," Danielle Tufano, director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance said Monday. The organization and the Rotary Club of Naperville are co-sponsoring the event.

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"We are absolutely making sure that safety is our number one priority for our event here in Naperville, and we're looking forward to having a nice, safe event on Friday," she said.

Anthony Riccio, director of public safety for Chicago-based Monterrey Security, said organizers of events that draw crowds "have to be more cognizant of risks of a vehicle intrusion."

Monterrey develops and implements security, public safety and crowd management plans for large events across the country. Before joining the company, Riccio spent 34 years with the Chicago Police Department and served as first deputy superintendent, when his duties included overseeing major events and situations.

Besides deploying heavy equipment like dump trucks or "something a vehicle isn't going to be able to ram and pass" at entry points, organizers should limit intersections along the route and block those in play, Riccio said.


Even turning a squad car sideways across an intersection can stop or slow a would-be intruder and remove the element of surprise, he said. Concrete barriers are "absolutely the best" but are expensive and difficult to get in place and remove.

For all its parades, Aurora requires mandatory fencing along the entire route to keep the public on the sidelines. The city also uses snow plows as barricades, said Clayton Muhammad, the city's chief communications and equity officer. Wauconda in 2016 invested in water barricades specifically for Main Street events after a terrorist attack in Nice, France, when a cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, said police Chief David Wermes.

The village also uses large public works and fire trucks for security during public events, including the upcoming holiday parade and tree lighting Dec. 4.

"It's all about trying to take away as many opportunities for someone planning an attack as possible, then being able to react quickly if an attack occurs," said Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Chris Covelli.

Local police generally handle events within their communities, but the sheriff's office conducts threat assessments for events on which it is the lead agency, Covelli said.

Antioch authorities say they're also working to make their holiday parade Friday as secure as possible.

"Those attending this week's parade and tree lighting probably will not notice anything different but can be assured our police department continues to work to maintain a safe environment," spokesman Jim Moran said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Eric Peterson, Scott Morgan and Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this story.

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