WICKER PARK — Wicker Park and Bucktown business owners and residents who hire private security guards, install surveillance cameras or take other safety measures can now recoup part of the costs thanks to a taxpayer-funded program.
The reimbursements — to cover up to half the cost of private security guards, graffiti removal, exterior lights, anti-smash glass, security cameras or window repairs — can go to businesses and residents whose properties are located along the area's major commercial corridors such as Ashland Avenue, Damen Avenue, Division Street, North Avenue, Milwaukee Avenue and Western Avenue.
According to the Wicker Park Bucktown Taxpayer District No. 33, the $50,000 safety program from its 2017 budget was approved in collaboration with Aldermen Joe Moreno (1st), Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Scott Waguespack (32nd).
Wicker Park Bucktown Taxpayer District No. 33 is a "special service area" in which property owners pay extra taxes for communal services such as snow removal, landscaping, sidewalk cleaning and graffiti removal.
Amid a spike in crime last summer, Moreno and Hopkins pressed for the commission that oversees the district to immediately authorize $100,000 of its 2016 budget of more than $1 million to pay for private security workers to augment police patrols during weekend and peak hours.
"We need every possible resource in our neighborhoods to commit to stopping crime. It can't rest on the police alone. We have money in the [special service area] in Wicker Park, let's use it for the security of our residents," Moreno previously said.
The commission paid California-based consultant Jim Peters $3,900, including travel expenses, to weigh in on how to use the money, and decided to add security guards and surveillance cameras to its existing graffiti removal rebate program for 2017.
Those who take advantage of the rebates can get reimbursed for up to 50 percent of the cost of six approved neighborhood safety measures. The reimbursements are for up to $1,000 per measure annually, per location.
Security guard reimbursements are eligible for up to $2,500 annually, per location.
“After an extensive research period, we’ve determined this is the most responsible and meaningful use of our new safety allocation,” Brent Norsman, chairman of the commission, said in a statement. "We’re providing these rebates in direct response to what [the special service area's] taxpayers feel will most benefit their businesses and properties, and in doing so we’re holding ourselves accountable to the district."
Additionally, Norsman said the group is working with the Shakespeare District Police on "future community engagement and safety education initiatives" in Wicker Park and Bucktown.
The commission's six members include Norsman, but there is room for up to 12, the program's full-time manager Jessica Wobbekind said. All of the taxpayer-funded programs and services from the district's budgets are overseen by the volunteer commissioners and the annual budgets are approved by Moreno, Hopkins and Waguespack.