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'Don't be afraid, be aware' | SDPD asks for vigilance as city expects large crowds for Pride

The message comes in the wake of mass shootings, the most recent taking place at a 4th of July parade in Chicago.

SAN DIEGO — "Don’t be afraid, be aware." That’s the message from San Diego police as large crowds are expected at this year’s Pride Parade, which returns to in-person following the pandemic.

The message comes after recent mass shootings with the latest one happening on the 4th of July in Highland Park, Illinois.

The City of San Diego is preparing for large turnouts at events scheduled this month, meaning security will be at an all-time high.

This year’s Pride is hoping to be bigger and better than ever. That’s because the parade and celebrations have been held virtually for the past two years. With the large crowds, expect to find a massive law enforcement presence as well.

“Whether it's Pride, Comic-Con, 4th of July, Labor Day...we look at these events. We are always looking for possible threats, any kind of challenges, and we try to get the resources out there ahead of time to make sure everyone has a safe and fun event,” said Lieutenant Adam Sharki with the San Diego Police Department.

The parade brought out an estimated 360,000 people in 2019, breaking attendance records.

For 2022, a large turnout is likely. For Lt. Sharki, it means more people that could be eyes and ears for law enforcement.

“A big part of that is the community involvement. We can’t be everywhere all the time and so we rely on our community partners, people in the public, who if they see something they say something,” said Lt. Sharki.

Sharki says it’s always better to say something than to say nothing and have it lead to a tragedy.

“One of the things we’ve seen in the wake of these events, is people always have this 20/20 hindsight and say ‘ah, there were red flags there but we just missed them.’ If it’s enough for someone to take a double take and say ‘wow that’s really concerning’…Give the police department a call,” said Lt. Sharki.

Sharki says the police department is working closely with their state, local and federal task force partners ahead of scheduled events, looking for possible threats, challenges, or even social media comments that could pose a safety threat.

“We’re looking for tips or leads that come from the community. We’re looking at social media to see if people are making any sorts of threats or concerning statements," said Lt. Sharki. "And what you don’t see is the analysts, the investigators behind the scenes, long before these events take place,” 

In a statement, Fernando Lopez, Pride Executive Director, said the following:

“It would be impossible to produce an event of our scale without a great deal of communication and coordination with local, regional, and federal law enforcement agencies. The rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and violence has the department of homeland security and FBI paying close attention to our community’s safety here in San Diego and around the nation.”

Sharki says despite recent mass shootings across the country, he hopes it doesn’t stop people from celebrating Pride.

“I don’t think people should be afraid, I think people should be aware. And I think awareness is a big component of that,” said Lt. Sharki.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego Pride celebration kicks off July 9 - July 17 (July 2022)

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