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City’s two annual Puerto Rican parades will combine

(from left) Ald. RoberMaldonado Abel De Jesus Executive Director PuerRican Parade Committee Angel MedinPresident announce merging two parades insingle PuerRican

(from left) Ald. Roberto Maldonado, Abel De Jesus, Executive Director of Puerto Rican Parade Committee and Angel Medina, President, announce the merging of the two parades into a single Puerto Rican People’s Parade on June 15. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 4, 2013 6:28AM

Chicago’s two annual Puerto Rican parades will combine forces this summer to bring a bigger audience to Humboldt Park — the heart of the city’s Puerto Rican community.

Instead of the downtown parade, which has seen a smaller crowd in years past, organizers on Tuesday announced a “historic” united Puerto Rican People’s Parade to begin on Division and Western streets June 15, right under the iron Puerto Rican flag.

The Puerto Rican Festival also will get an extra day compared to last year, expanding from four to five days beginning June 12.

Participation at the Puerto Rican Day Parade downtown has dwindled in years past, while the Humboldt Park parade crowd has grown.

José López, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, said he hopes crowds will go to the parade and festival, then shop at local stores and restaurants: “We believe this will be a shot in the arm in terms of economic development.”

The festival is the largest community event in Humboldt Park — organizers say it brings out a million people yearly. And despite the potential of having even more participants this year, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and organizers say their security plan — combining police and private security — is under control.

With fewer cops patrolling the festival last year, crime associated with the event was almost cut in half compared to 2011, according to police. Organizers say there was one-third of the police force usually staffing the festival. And gang crackdowns likely contributed to less gang activity near the festival.

Maldonado says police have gone “overboard” in years past.

“For years, I know that the Puerto Rican Committee had been putting pressure on the police department not to have such a massive presence here because there was no need really to,” Maldonado said. “These are not the ’60s; these are not the early ’70s. We had those riots, and that doesn’t exist anymore, but it seems to me that our committee evolved in having safer parades and festivities every single year. That was not in tune with the action by the police department.”

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