Neighborhood Watch

Private policing in Chicago

What do you do when a city is too cash-strapped to pay for adequate policing, yet residents of a community are willing to pay for extra security? If you’re Chicago, you consider giving private security guards the authority to issue tickets for littering, graffiti, parking violations, and other minor infractions.

Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale and John Pope have proposed granting limited police power to the Total Security Management company of Oakbrook Terrace. Beale says the ordinance would provide police with extra help and give the community more control over its own safety, and a supportive Mayor Richard Daley told the Chicago Sun-Times that “In an economic crisis…sometimes you have to think outside of the box.” Daley and Police Superintendent Jody Weis have been feuding over contract negotiations with Fraternal Order of Police, which opposes private policing on grounds that untrained personnel exacerbate confrontations.

Over the past 14 years, many communities such as Oakbrook Terrace have paid to supplement local police forces. “We saw the instant result in which their presence helped the community,” counters Beale. “They had a presence in areas where the police were already stretched thin. They filled these gaps, which improved the quality of life for the residents.” So far, private security guards have the power to temporarily detain people for illegal activity but little more. “Mall police are armed to make sure people are safe,” says Beale. Total Security Management officers “are policing my business district. It’s no different.”

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