Riding along with private security patrolling Bucktown; "Our scope is really to observe, report, deter"
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CHICAGO (CBS) — We first told you about Chicago residents hiring private security guards to fight crime in their neighborhoods late last year, but tonight you’ll get rare access into what it’s like to patrol the streets.

Jackie Kostek takes you along for a ride you’ll see only on CBS 2.

Ramonde Harris starts his patrol in Bucktown just after 5 p.m.

“I control from Honore – that we just turned off of – to Damen and from North Avenue to Armitage,” he said.

An Air Force Veteran and retired federal law enforcement agent, Harris now spends about four nights a week as a private security officer for P4 Security Solutions – the company hired by a Bucktown community group late last year in response to an uptick in crime, in particular carjackings and robberies.

“You have the unusual vehicles that drive through the neighborhood. I look for those, too. Those are normally the ones looking to jack a car,” Harris said. “They walk through the alley all the time. They have backpacks, and you can have burglary tools in there; you know, crowbars, and screwdrivers, and what not. Anything that could pry open a door or break a lock.”

“Our scope is really to observe, report, deter,” said Steve Vitale, an executive with P4.

Vitale said officers like Harris provide an extra set of eyes and ears for the neighborhood and can help police by reporting information in real time.

“We want to reduce the frequency of crime. If we see a garage door open, we’re going to notify that neighbor and go and close that garage door. If we see a package on the doorstep, we’re going to help bring that package inside,” Vitale said.

That real-time communication between P4 officers and neighbors happens virtually via Slack. But the guards are also connected to the P4 command center in Downers Grove, where two dispatchers monitor inward and outward facing cameras 24/7.

Jackie Kostek: “Okay, Ray, say that the scanner goes off with something happening in your zone, Bucktown 1 zone, what do you do if you hear something go off on a scanner where you know CPD officers will be making their way to that scene of whatever happened, do you go to?”

Harris: “Yes, I do. I try to get there, and I’m definitely going to get there and see what’s going on. And then, if I need backup, I’ll call Bucktown 2. There’s safety in numbers. Once the police come, if I get there before them, I inform them. If they get there before me, I ask questions, ‘Hey, what’s going on,’ so I can put it on Slack and let the residents know that this is what’s going on.”

Whether or not the extra security – which is costing the Bucktown group around $180,000 a year – is putting neighbors at ease is still up for debate.

P4 executives point to CPD crime statistics as showing their patrols make a difference, but neighbor Steve Jensen says the true test will come this summer.

“We watch and we wait,” he said.

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