CHICAGO – Private security in Chicago neighborhoods is becoming the norm, all in an effort to cut down on crime.
Private patrols can already be found monitoring neighborhoods like Bucktown, Lincoln Park, and Lake View.
Now, they may soon be seen in the West Loop. It’s the latest neighborhood coming together in hopes to hire private security. While an official contract is still in the works, patrols could begin in the neighborhood within the next few weeks.
The private company being hired by neighborhood associations throughout the city to tackle the job is P4 Security Solutions.
The company makes it clear that their officers are not working as first responders, and cannot make arrests — rather, they are extra sets of eyes for the communities they patrol.
“Our job is really to observe, report, and deter – and doing it in real-time and communicating that with the police department,” said P4 Security Solutions Executive Vice President Steve Vitale. “We feel like we’re an extra set of eyes and ears and it’s a real big force multiplier.”
On Thursday, FOX 32 got an inside look at the company’s command center located in Downers Grove – which is in constant contact with its patrols. Security officers are also in touch with residents.
“If there is a concern, they can direct message our officer,” said Vitale. “We do more than just look out for the bad guys. We’re calling 311 if we see graffiti on a garage, we notify the neighbors if there’s a garage door open, we call the city if we see tree limbs that are down.”
On the ground, marked security vehicles with armed guards are equipped with cameras facing both inside and out. Those camera feeds are monitored at the command center.
“We’re putting off-duty police officers that are providing these safety patrols, either retired or active, and we feel that’s the highest level of security you can provide when you’re doing this type of patrol,” said Vitale. “The data we’ve seen in the areas we’re patrolling, we’ve reduced the frequency of crime dramatically compared to the surrounding areas that are nearby.”
In Bucktown, business owners like Jim Higgins, who opened Club Lucky in 1990, feel that private patrols will only help prevent crimes from happening – before they start.
“It’s a question of having more people looking out for each other,” said Higgins. “It’s just a challenge all over Chicagoland right now. It’s just trying to keep everybody safe and keep the awareness up.”
P4 is paid for by neighbors and businesses in the areas they patrol – costing upwards of $180,000 per year.
It’s a practice Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she still has concerns about.
“If something happens, because they don’t have any authority to patrol our streets – that is solely a province of the Chicago Police Department for on-duty officers. So the question that I have, I know our law department and the superintendent have is if you are going to hire private security, particularly, if you’re going to populate that with off-duty Chicago police officers, are you also going to be stepping up to give us liability protection if something goes wrong,” Lightfoot said during a press conference on Monday, May 2.
Lightfoot also said the city “cannot have a situation where public safety is only available to the wealthy.”
Instead, she said the city needs to make every neighborhood safer so that residents don’t feel the need to resort to hiring private patrols.
FOX 32 reached out to the Chicago Police Department for comment on the practice of neighborhood associations hiring private security but did not immediately hear back.