Armed guards begin patrolling in Loop

ByCate Cauguiran WLS logo
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Armed guards begin patrolling in Loop
Local businesses are paying for armed guards to patrol State Street in the Loop so shoppers and pedestrians feel safe coming downtown.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Local businesses are paying for armed guards to patrol State Street in the Loop so shoppers and pedestrians feel safe coming downtown.

The guards are known as "street ambassadors," and they will be able to make arrests.

Thursday is the first day for the security detail, now out patrolling the State Street corridor thanks to the Chicago Loop Alliance.

"The Chicago Loop Alliance, their whole purpose is making the downtown Loop a more livable, workable safe friendly, inviting environment and I think that clearly adds to that," Jean de St. Aubin, executive director of the Gene Siskel Film Center.

The Gene Siskel Film Center is a member of the alliance.

"We have over 85,000 people come to the Gene Siskel Center every year, a lot of them residents and students and people who live downtown, so I think just the presence of the extra security makes people feel a little more comfortable," Jean de St. Aubin said.

The Chicago Loop Alliance says the new guards will help create a safer environment and help cut down on crime. The guards will be uniformed, equipped with badges and a gun, a detail that had some people on edge.

"Just knowing that there are going to be extra guns on the street just to' protect us,' it can be a little bit jarring and scary, but I guess were just going to see how that's going to go down," said Martin Molina.

"I think maybe security cameras or something would be a better option, because it's all going off of speculation you know based off what a security guard senses is danger, and that can cause a lot of conflict," said T'nya Jones.

The Chicago Loop Alliance says the guards will be trained and are either off-duty police or retired police officers. Their job will be to patrol State Street between Wacker Drive and Congress Parkway, as well as parts of Wabash.

The area is popular for tourists and shoppers. According to the Chicago Loop Alliance, an estimated 2 million people hit the sidewalks of State Street every week, and that was reason enough for the business group to hire two armed guards.

"We've been thinking about this for over a year and recent events extremely unfortunate, but stakeholders feeling like we just need a little more effort to maintain certain level of civility on the street," said Michael Edwards, CEO of Chicago Loop Alliance.

Two days ago, Chicago police arrested three men in a chase on the Riverwalk. Officers say the trio had just robbed someone near West Wacker Drive and two weeks ago, a high-profile shooting near the Thompson Center cost a Chicago police commander his life.

The guards will be on duty Thursday, Friday and Saturday and will be patrolling at various times midday and in the evening, and that will increase during the summer

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he is ok with the guards.

"That's not unusual for businesses, malls, high rise residential buildings to hire private security so we're fine with that," said Superintendent Eddie Johnson.