The Chicago Police Department recently diverted some of its neighborhood patrol units to protect film and TV production sets in the city after several dangerous incidents occurring near film crews.
The move came days after a person reportedly “lit and threw an unidentified object” onto a downtown film set near the University of Illinois at Chicago. Police said the object appeared to be an explosive device like a mortar. There was no explosion and no one was injured during the incident.
According to a department email, CPD First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter diverted two officers from downtown patrol duty to supervise the filming location following the incident.
Carter also ordered the Near West (12th) District Commander to send two officers in marked vehicles to provide security for the set of Chicago Fire.
“The Chicago Police Department works closely with the city’s film and television community to provide safety and security for the production crews, as well as the communities in which they film,” a CPD spokesperson said.
Before the order, Chicago police units were already facing dangerously low staffing levels in the areas affected by the diversion efforts, such as the Loop neighborhood of downtown Chicago. One affected district apparently only has four sergeants and six patrol officers on duty.
The department is struggling with the lowest staffing numbers in recent years, with only 11,669 sworn officers as of March 30. Over 300 officers have left the department this year.
Officials say that CPD resources were diverted after production companies were unable to find enough off-duty police officers to work security for their sets.
Although the city requires “police supervision” for many film activities and allows studios to hire uniformed cops, there have been fewer officers willing or able to volunteer for the program of late.
According to Deadline, a shooting near the set of FX’s Justified: City Primeval a few weeks before the order was made was also taken into account.
“The Chicago Police Department is committed to ensuring members of the city’s vibrant film and television community are able to do their jobs safely,” a CPD spokesperson said following the shooting. “We work in close coordination with the Chicago Film Office, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications to ensure production crews have the resources necessary to feel safe and secure while filming in the city’s neighborhoods.”
With police efforts to combat crime in the city, violence is instead spreading to the northern lakefront areas — including the South Loop neighborhood. According to Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, violent crime in lakefront neighborhoods is on the rise despite a 44% decrease in homicides and a 26% decrease in shootings citywide this year.