A private detail of "armed off duty police officers wearing bullet proof vests" has been hired to "maintain safety" in Chicago's heavily gay North Halsted/Boystown corridor. The armed security team was hired by by the Northalsted Business Alliance after the second consecutive summer of street crime that has inflammed "racial tensions", according to ChicagoGoPride.com.
The enhanced and more visible security team started patrolling North Halsted this past weekend and consists of off-duty law enforcement officers hired by the Northalsted Business Alliance (NHBA), a non-profit group representing more than 80 businesses along North Halsted St. from Barry to Irving Park Road.
Since a video recording-gone-viral showing a late night stabbing in the heart of the Boystown neighborhood in July 2011, the debate over crime and racial tension in the city's LGBT community has continued to escalate.
This spring - as soon as temperatures heated up - the Boystown neighborhood again filled with displaced and often homeless youth. Following a series of robberies and assaults in the neighborhood from March through June, concerns over neighborhood safety grew and racial tensions appeared to reignite. Residents complain that large groups of loitering youth block building entrances, sidewalks and streets while dancing and yelling well past curfew. Critics argue Boystown is the only area where LGBT youth feel accepted.
The trouble began in July 2011 over Chicago's Black Gay Pride weekend. A brutal street brawl was captured on videotape by a local resident. The video shows more than a dozen Black LGBT youth arguing, fighting and attacking one young man. The victim was treated for multiple stab wounds and a collapsed lung.
Suspects were ultimately arrested. The vicious fight apparently started after a petty sidewalk encounter.
Boystown boasts among the lowest crime rates in the city. But that brawl was the third stabbing in the upscale and heavily gay neighborhood in as many weeks. The previous incidents also involved Black LGBT youth. Before the Black Gay Pride incident, the most recent stabbing victim had been white.
The stabbings and the presence of Black/Latino street youth in the upscale neighborhood have sparked a racially-fueled debate. Tensions flared last summer as "about 600 people" attended a community policing meeting. The debate "quickly turned to race" and was characterized by "yelling, cheers, booing and fights".
One final note: The article is non-attributed. There is no mention of the extent of the private security force's powers. There is also no mention of its policy regarding use of force, no details regarding arrest and detainment procedures and no comment or pushback on the private police force's accountability. Will arrest statistics be shared with the public? Who will listen to complaints about excessive force? Tsk, tsk.