Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said Tuesday he hopes the arrests of nearly 20 people on looting and other charges stemming from this week's vandalism in Bloomington-Normal will curtail the crime spree.
“Our hope is that by taking the individuals that seem to be the instigators, that seem to be at the root of those issues, then that’s going to stem future problems,” Bleichner said.
Bleichner said the department is trying to take a more proactive response to the vandalism. He said officers are gathering operational plans from business owners so they can more swiftly respond.
“Anybody who comes to a business after hours, after it’s closed, they are going to be disbursed,” he said.
Bleichner said the department has several crowd-disbursement tools, but he didn’t give specifics. An officer used pepper spray during at least one incident early Monday after someone damaged a squad car.
He defended the department’s handling of the Target store vandalism early Monday morning when officers retreated after a large crowd started throwing objects at them.
“The safety of the officers was the most important thing at that point,” Bleichner said. “It became unsafe for us to remain there. It wasn’t because of any stand-down order or anything like that.”
The police chief noted that several officers suffered minor injuries overnight Sunday, but he didn’t go into specifics.
Bleichner said the department responded to “numerous” looting and property damage calls the last two nights, but he doesn't have a damage estimate.
While looters were able to get inside Target and Walmart, Bleichner praised the department’s officers for preventing several other attempts to gain entry into stores, mostly in northeast Normal, while several were scattered throughout town.
“What hasn’t been documented is all the multiple attempts that were made at businesses throughout the night on Sunday night and Monday night to damage or breach local businesses that were not successful because of our staff and other agencies,” he said.
Bleichner cautioned business owners against taking matters into their own hands by bringing weapons onto their properties.
“When we have to respond, we’re assuming that business is closed, we don’t know anybody is in there, that’s a recipe for disaster," he said.
Bleichner didn’t address whether the department would consider issuing a curfew. Bloomington and Normal city leaders said Monday a curfew was off the table for now, but could change if the violence or threats escalate.
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