Wednesday, November 04, 2015

By Lindsey Holden
Staff writer

October 29. 2015 7:44PM

Rockford Housing Authority board OKs new security contract

ROCKFORD — The Rockford Housing Authority took another step Thursday night toward modifying security at its properties.

At their monthly meeting, commissioners approved a $550,000-a-year contract with Securitas, which will provide services on the agency’s properties for up to two years. The company has been providing services on an interim basis since Oct. 1; RHA’s contract with Metro Enforcement expired at the end of September.

Securitas is an international security firm that boasts branch locations in every state, including at Fairview Shopping Center in Rockford. The new contract is still being negotiated and will be subject to approval by RHA‘s legal counsel.

RHA is trying to change the way residents and security officers interact. The agency wants its security personnel to be seen as neighborhood police, not militarized officers. The new security staff will wear khakis and polos, instead of the boots and bulletproof vests Metro officers wore during their tenure. Some guards will be armed, but others won’t carry weapons.

Residents “all said they wanted more security,” CEO Ron Clewer said. “They all wanted it to be friendly and more approachable.”

Board Chairman Jerry Lumpkins asked the commissioners to carefully consider the new contract before he called a vote. Security is an expensive service, and it will be important for RHA to carefully assess Securitas’ job performance, he said.

“I want us to be deliberate,” he said. “I want us to make the right decision for our security contract.”

During Metro’s time as security contractor, the number of arrests made on RHA sites increased 71 percent, from 205 in 2011 to 351 in 2014. Residents who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting were divided on whether increased security measures, such as armed guards and cameras in public areas, made them feel safer or more like criminals.

“At the end of the day, your security is our concern,” Lumpkins said.

Lindsey Holden: lholden@rrstar.com;@lindseyholden27