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Private Security in Chicago's 'Virtual Gated Communities'

Armed off-duty police officers have been hired in at least five neighborhoods on Chicago's affluent North Side to add a layer of security amid alarm over carjackings and other street crimes, the Wall Street Journal reports. Neighborhood associations are footing the bill for private security patrols to act as a deterrent because people don't feel safe and can afford more than what on-duty police can provide.

Chicago is not alone. In San Francisco, Alan Byard, a licensed police officer who works for private clients, said he has seen a big increase in interest in his services. Before the pandemic, he said he had 75 clients in the Marina area. Today, he has 175. “As the pandemic was getting into the first six months, the clients started calling me up and saying, ‘Crime is out of control, what can you do?’” he said. Private security patrols on public streets aren’t new, but they have more typically been found in gated communities and downtown business districts. Private patrols can reduce crime in areas they serve, said Jens Ludwig, head of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab. But they tend to exacerbate racial and economic divisions that are already wide in the city, he added, and could potentially reduce political pressure to attack the problem at a citywide level. “That would be the open question and potential big concern,” he said. In one section of Lincoln Park, neighbors were seeking contributions of $100 a month from anyone interested in pitching in, with a goal of raising $175,000 a year, according to a letter a private security company distributed to homeowners.


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