State Lawmaker Wants Armed Guards in All Chicago Gas Stations

Groceries, banks and pawn shops would be included in proposed statute

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Illinois lawmakers are weighing a new measure that would require gas stations and some other businesses to hire armed security guards during the hours they are open to the public.

State Representative Thaddeus Jones (D-29th District), who is also the Mayor of Calumet City, said his “Armed Security Protection Act” is necessary to deter crime while Chicago is still experiencing a wave of carjackings.

“The data shows it's bad,” Jones said.

Sponsors say they want to see armed security not only at gas stations, but at banks, pawn shops and grocery stores as well.

“If these businesses are in our community, they need to protect the citizens that are basically keeping them in business,” said Early Walker, the towing company owner and philanthropist who first proposed the idea in 2021.

His “Operation Safe Pump” offered armed security guards to gas stations primarily in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

“We saw that citizens felt safer; citizens felt more protected and comfortable when there was an armed guard available,” he said.

Alderman Stephanie Coleman (15th Ward) was an early supporter of Walker’s pilot program. She said the program was good for business.

“A lot of the gas stations found an increase because people had stopped getting gas at their neighborhood gas stations,” she said.

Jones introduced a similar statute in 2021, but it never got out of committee. He said he has higher hopes this time around because the need is still great. “Carjackings are happening in grocery stores, carjackings are happening in gas stations,” he said.

“Women in particular are afraid to come out at night and sometimes during the day, because of these carjackings that are happening in places like this.”

Some business groups have said the cost of security is an unfair burden on their membership.

"This legislation wrongly shifts the responsibility of public safety from government agencies to individual retailers, which already pay significant taxes to fund law enforcement," said Rob Karr, President of the Illinois Retail Merchant's Association.

"It’s time for a comprehensive approach to rising crime, which has already forced retailers to make significant investments in security in recent years,” Karr said.

Jones acknowledges the criticism. He said there may be some state money available to help defray those costs.

“We want them to work with the community because residents will feel safer coming into a place where they know they have armed security,” Jones said.

For now, the measure would be limited to cities larger than 2,000,000 people, meaning only Chicago would be impacted. If passed, the earliest the bill could go into effect would be 2024.

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