After a spike in crime, two Chicago aldermen want to bring private security services to the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods to supplement what police are already doing.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) proposed a plan to use the taxpayer surplus Special Service Area, or SSA, funds for guards to help Chicago police patrol the Northwest Side communities. On Friday, the aldermen and 14th District Police Commander Fabian Saldana brought together dozens of residents to discuss the proposal.
"It's no different than snow removal, beautification or the other things that SSA does. I believe security is important, and it's important to augment it, not replace it," Moreno said.
Since May, 1700 crimes from battery to arson were reported in the area, but only 200 arrests have been made, according to the aldermen.
"We're trying to get a handle on that with this proposal," Hopkins said.
The proposed budget amendment would use $100,000 of the $1.2 million SSA budget, allowing for the hiring of off-duty and retired police officers for late-night patrols.
Some residents expressed support, saying it would be "egregious" to not do anything about the crime.
"It's a really good idea, but we need to think about standards and oversight," said community resident Gretchen Vermuelen.
Others were not enthusiastic about the idea.
"Police service is a fundamental service that the city should be providing on its own. We should not be providing that," said Steven Lipe.
The SSA district overlaps three wards, with two of the three aldermen backing the private security proposal. Ald. Hopkins said the SSA funding will expire if not spent by the end of the year.
"If we're not able to come to an agreement or some compromise, a willingness to work together, then really the entire $1.2 million is in jeopardy," said Kimberly Bares of the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce.
The aldermen said they hope to work out a solution within the next week.