WICKER PARK — A taxpayer-funded group has agreed to set aside $50,000 for safety programs along commercial streets — which could include hiring private security workers to augment Wicker Park and Bucktown police, the group announced on Wednesday.
Part of a new safety program allocation in the Wicker Park Bucktown Taxpayer District No. 33's proposed 2017 budget, the $50,000 could be used on security camera rebates, a community ambassador program, partnerships with area nightlife establishments and private patrols, the group said in a news release.
The three aldermen who approved the proposed 2017 budget of about $1.2 million are Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).
The taxpayer group's volunteer-run commission, in collaboration with "neighborhood stakeholders" and the aldermen, will decide how the safety program money will be spent, the group said.
In July, Hopkins and Moreno announced that they wanted to see $100,000 of the Special Service Area's 2016 budget allocated for safety. That suggestion, which was prompted by a recent uptick in crime, got tabled for this year, but the group agreed to allocate some taxpayer money to security next year.
Wicker Park/Bucktown Special Service Area No. 33 Commission Chairman Brent Norsman, said “Safety has always been a priority for us."
Special Service Area districts, sometimes called Business Improvement Districts, levy a special tax on property owners for communal services such as snow removal, landscaping, sidewalk cleaning and graffiti removal.
Norsman said that "maintaining a vibrant and inviting neighborhood" is the group's focus, but acknowledged that "well-managed and active public spaces are safer spaces."
"We look forward to investigating additional ways we can contribute to the Wicker Park Bucktown neighborhood, and creating safety programs that are meaningful, effective, and a responsible use of taxpayers’ money.” Norsman said.
The SSA brands itself as WPB for "Wicker Park/Bucktown." The boundaries of the district where the private patrols could be used include several main streets such as Damen, North and Ashland avenues as well as Division Street.
Hopkins praised the group for allocating taxpayer money for safety.
“I applaud the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber and the SSA #33 Commissioners for their leadership in addressing community concerns and willingness to consider alternative solutions,” Hopkins said.
Waguespack added: “Our whole community appreciates the years of volunteer work the SSA #33 Commissioners have dedicated to helping to make Wicker Park Bucktown a great place to do business with our residents and guests. Through joint efforts with the Clean, Green and Safe Committee, especially Mr. Wayne Janik, the WPB has become a cleaner and safer community and I am happy he will continue to lead this committee I will continue to work closely with the [Shakespeare District/14th] police in bolstering their resources and continue to fight for the appropriate manpower and resources our local government should provide for the entire WPB community. "
Moreno was not immediately available for comment. Moreno previously said the area needs "every possible resource in our neighborhoods to commit to stopping crime.
"It can't rest on the police alone. We have money in the SSA in Wicker Park, let's use it for the security of our residents," Moreno said previously.
Guided by its 2009 Wicker Park Bucktown Master Plan, which received the American Planning Association’s National Planning Excellence Award for Public Outreach in recognition of extensive and ongoing community involvement, the group is currently creating a new plan that will be completed by the end of the year.
The community-based planning process includes a series of public forums and a website, WPBForward.org, to encourage participation. The next public meeting for the Master Plan is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Wicker Park Field House, 1425 N. Damen Ave.
At Tuesday's meeting, "a series of potential future projects will be presented and discussed," with community members encouraged to give input.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: