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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Bucktown Group Shrouded In Secrecy Wants To Hire Private Security To Patrol Neighborhood

The neighborhood has seen a spike in carjackings in 2021, which have surged citywide. The Bucktown Neighbors Association is considering hiring private security to "deter crime," but some neighbors are worried it could have an adverse impact.

Homes, buildings and the Chicago skyline, as seen from above the Bucktown neighborhood on Nov. 16, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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BUCKTOWN — A community group in Bucktown is considering hiring private security to patrol the neighborhood following a spike in armed robberies and carjackings — but those involved won’t answer questions about how it would work.

In a letter sent to neighbors dated Nov. 11, a group called the Bucktown Neighbors Association briefly describes their intention to hire a private security patrol, and asks for additional funding support.

“To help deter the rash of crime in Bucktown, neighbors between Winchester and Paulina are organizing a private security patrol,” the letter reads. “There are similar patrol programs in place in nearby neighborhoods. Our program is being coordinated by the newly established non-profit, the Bucktown Neighbors Association.”

The letter cites crime statistics, including this year’s rise in carjackings citywide and in the 14th Police District, which includes Bucktown and Logan Square.

Through Dec. 8, Chicago has seen 1,645 carjackings so far in 2021, up from 1,299 in 2020 and 542 in 2019 during the same time period. The 14th District has reported 85 carjackings this year, up from 53 in 2020.

“The patrol program is not replacing police nor will it inhibit more police presence. Our first call in case of emergency should continue to be 911,” the letter said. “We have a groundswell of support but would greatly appreciate additional funding.”

The Bucktown Neighbors Association did not respond to a request for an interview with its members, and did not reply to specific questions.

In an unsigned email, the group said that “Bucktown residents are working with the Alderman’s office and local law enforcement to investigate legal measures we can take to help deter crime in our area. This includes adding additional security cameras, zoning streets or changing traffic patterns, or implementing a private security patrol which other neighborhoods have had in place for many years.”

The group declined to answer how a security patrol would work, if guards would be armed, or how they would engage with suspects if they encounter a crime being committed.

“We are currently looking into various safety strategies and do not have a timeline to share. The purpose of these measures is to help us better observe what’s going on in Bucktown so we can more quickly report on crime to the police,” the group said in an additional email.

The group declined to say which other neighborhoods have hired private security forces to patrol residential streets.

“We are not going to comment on what action other communities have taken but we know that none of the measures we are looking into are new,” the group said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose ward includes most of Bucktown, did not return requests for comment.

Police Sgt. Michael Edens of the 14th District said he was aware some neighbors were considering hiring private security, but had no comment on the effort.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
14th Police District Commander Elizabeth Collazo and local alderpeople address Wicker Park and Bucktown residents about a recent surge in carjackings on Sept. 28, 2021

One Bucktown resident, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than three years and asked to remain anonymous, said she heard about the private security plan from neighbors and on Facebook, but hasn’t heard any details on how it would work.

“There’s definitely a movement of people who do want to [do] this,” the resident said. “I’m concerned because there’s no information on it. It seems like it’s not openly discussed in terms of details. But also I just think as a general matter, I don’t want people who are unregulated, unmonitored walking our streets and carrying a weapon, and making their own judgment on what is a threat and what is not a threat.”

The resident said the biggest outstanding question she has is whether or not the security guards would be carrying guns.

“I don’t think there should be an armed patrol that is not regulated and has no oversight. I think there is just concern generally as a neighborhood about what that could spiral into. There’s also considerations of what that means for people of color in our neighborhood,” she said.

“The police have an oversight committee, and there’s no oversight it seems for this group of people that might be patrolling our sidewalks.”

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