LINCOLN PARK — Troubled by rising crime, a Lincoln Park group says it’s raising money to hire a private security firm to patrol their neighborhood, a move that’s sparking concern from some neighbors.
In a flyer distributed to residents along Burling Street, Orchard Street, Arlington Place and Fullerton Avenue, organizers of the effort say that they’re planning to hire the private security patrol, asking neighbors to chip in $1,200 per household each year to make it happen.
It’s not clear who all comprises the group behind the flyer. But a neighbor who responded to Block Club’s email, Barbara Sifter, declined to answer questions.
“There have been a number of incidents close to home over the last several months, including armed robberies on Arlington and a carjacking just south of us on Orchard,” the flyer states.
The flyer goes on to list rises in robberies, burglaries, thefts and motor vehicle thefts. But the crime statistics, previously outlined in a CWB Chicago report, are attributed to Chicago Police’s Central District, which does not include Lincoln Park. The neighborhood is in the Near North and Town Hall police districts.
Crime has risen citywide during the pandemic, and North Side neighborhoods like Lincoln Park have seen spikes in armed robberies and carjackings. However robberies in Lincoln Park have declined 11.3 percent since 2019, Block Club previously reported. Meanwhile, carjackings in the neighborhood rose from eight in 2019 to 19 last year.
The group’s flyer said it hopes to address these crimes by partnering with P4, a private security firm with offices Downtown and in suburban Downers Grove, to deploy one officer in a marked vehicle to patrol their streets for eight hours a day, every day of the year, according to the flyer. Hours will vary and the patrol car will be parked in the area when not in use.
P4 Security already patrols another area of Lincoln Park, and the firm was hired in December to patrol a section of Bucktown. It advertises itself as “a trusted advisor for uncertain times.”
At the time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was “very concerned” about the Bucktown group’s efforts to hire the security firm.
“I need to know more about what their specific plan and scope is; but patrolling streets, responding to crime, that’s the job of the Chicago Police Department, and they do it effectively,” Lightfoot said. “We’re not gonna start because people can afford it standing up a group of — well, I think I’ve said enough. There’s a slippery slope here, and I’m very concerned.”
Ald. Michele Smith’s office (43rd) declined to comment.
If hired by this section of Lincoln Park, P4 would set up a channel on Slack, an instant messaging app, so all neighbors can communicate with the officer and “live stream to the Chicago Police Department,” according to the flyer.
The effort is expected to cost $175,000 a year in addition to some one-time fees for setting the service up, according to the flyer. So far, neighbors have raised 35 percent of that cost, the flyer states.
The neighbors behind the effort are asking for $1,200 a year per household to opt into supporting the service, according to the flyer.
“If you are able to contribute more or less, that’s fine,” the flyer states.
If 75 percent of the funds are raised by April 30, patrols could start May 15.
Organizers of the effort declined to answer emailed questions about how the security patrols would work and whether the guards would be armed.
“Thank you for your email. Nothing more to report and no additional comments,” Sifter wrote.
Representatives from P4 did not return a request for comment.
One Lincoln Park resident, who moved in a few weeks ago from Uptown, said she was shocked to receive the flyer advertising the private security effort.
“I’ve lived in Chicago for six years now, and I’ve watched with growing concern as I’ve seen other neighborhoods, like Bucktown, determining they want to go forward with contracting a private security firm,” the neighbor said. “It’s not something I ever thought would happen in a neighborhood I lived in.”
The neighbor said her biggest concern is the amount of unknowns surrounding the private security effort.
“It’s not clear whether these guards would be armed, what actions these security officers might take, how they’d identify a suspicious person or activity, when they’d intervene and what that intervention would look like,” she said. “That unknown is one of my main concerns.”
Her second issue with hiring private security is that they’d be patrolling a public way, rather than a private business or gated community, she said.
“I have a real problem with the idea that private citizens might be hiring a private security firm to police the public way,” she said. “When you have public sidewalks that any member of the public or resident of the city should be able to walk down, and they’re being policed by a privately held firm — I have a real problem with that.”
The neighbor said she “fully recognizes that crime has gone up throughout the pandemic,” but she disagrees that private security is the solution.
Additionally, she said she didn’t think the firm was worth its $175,000 price tag.
“Folks are able to do with their money what they would like, but I would prefer to see my disposable income go toward investing in support for the city and fighting the city’s crime problem by getting at its greater root causes,” she said.
Another neighbor, who’s lived in Lincoln Park for nearly two years, said his biggest concern about hiring the private security firm is how they would be held accountable.
“The thought of potentially armed people on the streets without public accountability is a scarier to me than being worried about an act of crime,” he said. “We’re already having trouble keeping actual police officers accountable. What would it mean to have a private business with no civic accountability putting people on the streets for security?”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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