ENGLEWOOD — A nonprofit organization wants the Chicago Transit Authority to hire local residents to patrol neighborhoods located along the transit route during the upcoming Red Line redevelopment.
"Most of the neighborhoods surrounding the Red Line south line [95th Street to Chinatown] are black. And no one knows the neighborhood better than the residents impacted by this massive project," said John Paul Jones, chairman of the Sustainable Englewood Initiative.
CTA provides security guards mainly at its train stations, platforms and aboard trains.
"But what about the neighborhood?" Jones asked. "The police cannot afford to station a squad car at every Red Line stop during the reconstruction, and that's where people will be standing waiting for a shuttle bus."
Jones said residents "could be hired to patrol the bus stops and along State Street just like [Chicago Public Schools] did when it hired parents as safety patrol guards for all the schools. You can find one of them standing on every block before and after school to ensure safety."
CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry said while safety and security was the CTA's "paramount concern" during the project — which begins May 19 and runs through Oct. 19 — "there are no plans to employ any citizen safety patrols."
Jones noted that the CTA's contract with its security company, Securitas Security Services USA Inc., ends in July and "that's why the CTA should train and hire residents to do safety patrol."
Mayberry said CTA employees will be used to replace the company's canine unit. And for the last several months, CTA has been meeting with the Chicago Police Department, elected officials, community leaders and others to discuss safety and security issues, he said.
The CTA plans to work with Chicago police to devise a plan for safety patrols in the neighborhoods, Mayberry said.
At its board meeting Wednesday, the CTA approved funding for new security cameras at Red Line South shuttle bus staging areas.
"[This is] to complement the cameras already in place at all rail stations and on all CTA buses," Mayberry said.
The change from contracted workers to CTA employees will be revenue-neutral, according to Mayberry. Since 2010 the CTA has paid Securitas more than $60 million, mainly for work at stations, platforms and inside "L" cars.
Securitas guards at rail stations served "essentially as station attendants — with duties no different than CTA customer assistants," Mayberry said.
"CTA employees will replace contracted employees on a one-for-one basis, with no reduction in coverage. The CTA employees are better-trained and better equipped to serve CTA customers," Mayberry said.
Still, Jones' idea for the CTA to hire residents struck some as a good idea.
"I never thought about it but that would be a great way to engage the community in a project that impacts them anyway," said Rose Lear, 57, who lives in Burnside and boards the Red Line train at 87th Street to go to work.
"I mean, I have a job but there are a lot of people who do not but are looking for one," she said. "And it's always nice to work in your own community even if it is for a short while."
Thomas Hall, 32, an unemployed Englewood resident looking for a job, said "hiring people from the area is an excellent way to help people who are looking for work — people like me."
"One thing I know is that people respect a person more when they know them and everyone knows me," Hall said.
Even with Chicago police dispatching extra officers in neighborhoods located along the Red Line south route, Vanessa Costello, a 19-year-old North Side resident, said it's better to be safe than sorry.
"You can never have too much security especially when you're talking about the Red Line," said Costello, who rides the Red Line to visit friends on the South Side. "I live along the Red Line on the North Side where I'm sure there would be no issue for extra patrols if the reconstruction was happening over there."