City considers hiring private security guards

March 20, 2009 2:58:08 PM PDT
The City of Chicago is considering a controversial idea, hiring private security guards to replace police officers, allowing them to write tickets for numerous violations. The Chicago Police unions are strongly opposed to the idea.

Two South Side aldermen are writing an ordinance that would allow the police replacements to operate along three commercial zones.

There are three business strips in the 9th and 10th wards on the South Side that have used private security services since 2006. The aldermen want to give the rent-a-cops powers to write tickets for violations.

The special police would not get out of their cars to show us their uniforms and sidearms. But they do wear them when on duty in high-crime, South Side neighborhoods. The business owners in three city-designated special service areas pay an extra tax for the private guards.

"I believe the special patrol come first. The police won't come first," said Mike Heidelberg, store manager.

"It's no different than when you go to the mall and see mall police. It's no different. This is our business district. They monitor solely the business district," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.

The alderman says the program works so well in his ward that he wants an ordinance giving the special police the power to write tickets for parking, loitering, littering and other small violations.

"If they see somebody conduct an illegal activity, all they're going to do is detain until the Chicago Police Department get there," said Beale.

Pope Sago who says he spends a lot of time on South Michigan Avenue says the rent-a-cops should stick to private property.

"I don't think they should do no police anything. If anything they need to be standing in front of them stores to make sure nobody is robbing them stores," said Sago, neighborhood resident.

On Friday, ABC7 saw lots of real cops on South Michigan Avenue. Their union says giving special police powers off private property is dangerous.

"They don't have the powers of arrest. They're not police officers," said Mark Donahue, Federation of Police, Lodge #7. "They have guns, I'll give you that. But they don't have the 26 weeks of training the members of the Chicago Police Department go through."

Finally, Pope Sago doesn't look forward to a day when a private patrolman might try to detain him during one of his walks down a public sidewalk.

"I ain't going," said Sago. "They going to have to use it [gun]."