In a move to increase visibility of its security efforts, the Northalsted Business Alliance is contracting security officers from a new private firm and unifying the appearance of personnel in bright green shirts during patrols of the area.
“We’ve had security on the street for the past several years,” Northalsted Businesss Alliance Executive Director, Jay Lyon, told Chicago Phoenix. “We looked at how we can make it more efficient and how it can be improved.”
Boystown area residents noticed the heightened appearance of security over the weekend, when the changes went into effect. Before, the guards were not identifiable by a sort of standard uniform.
Specifically, the unified bright green attire will improve the security team’s visibility to patrons walking along North Halsted Street and security personnel at private entertainment establishments along the strip. This will enhance the effectiveness of the security patrols, Lyon said.
The security officers are also equipped with bulletproof vests and firearms, according to NHBA Spokesperson, Jen Gordon.
Boystown, the city’s main LGBT enclave and entertainment district, has been the focus of intense scrutiny after perceived racial tensions were ignited following incidents of crime last summer throughout the neighborhood.
The heightened visibility in the neighborhood, however, is not in response to any incident or crime, Gordon said.
“People have asked about incidents,” she said. “It’s simply the result of us wishing to improve security. It’s something that we take very seriously because we want our customers and our neighbors to be safe.”
The aim of the NHBA, a non-profit organization comprising business owners and community members on the North Halsted Street entertainment strip, is to provide a fun and safe environment for residents and patrons, according to a statement issued to the press Tuesday. Gordon reiterated that goal and said that the response from patrons at businesses has been positive so far because people like that they can identify security now, she said.
NHBA security officers are paid and are contracted with New England Security, a private security firm, according to Gordon. Lyon would not say how much the security team costs, but noted that the NHBA is constantly evaluating the expense. He also declined to say how many guards are employed and how many are on patrol at times throughout the week and weekend.
“I must refrain from giving out specific details of the program (number of people, what hours they are there, etc.),” Lyon said in an email. “To do so would jeopardize its effectiveness.”
Other reports have indicated that the enhanced guard will continue at least until the popular street fair Market Days, Aug. 11-12, but Gordon said there is no solid date or plan for changing these strategies moving forward.
“There’s no hard-and-fast date,” she said. “We’re looking at it every week. We like to keep it open and flexible for the needs of the community.”
A spokesperson for 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney’s office has not yet returned calls for comment.
Chicago Phoenix will update if more information becomes available.