Boystown business group re-ups with controversial security firm

One of the landmarked rainbow pylons that lines Boystown’s Halsted Street. | Adam Rhodes/Medill

By Adam Rhodes •  Medill Reports

A Boystown business organization plans to tap Walsh Security as its summer security provider, just weeks after a local community center ousted the firm amid activist pressure over its owner’s alleged racist and violent past.

Jennifer Gordon, a representative for the Northalsted Business Alliance (NHBA), told Medill Reports in an email on Friday that the group planned to hire Walsh Security to provide private security from May through the end of October.

The disclosure comes just weeks after local LGBT community center, Center on Halsted, replaced Walsh Security under pressure from local activists. The Center on Halsted awarded a new security contract to Quantum Security, which has a track record of providing security to LGBT organizations in Chicago. However, CWBChicago reported last month that Quantum is not licensed to provide security services in Illinois.

“The Center on Halsted’s move has not affected our plans to move forward with Walsh Security,” Gordon said in her email.

NHBA has paid Walsh’s company between $50,000 and $80,000 a year since 2014 for security patrols, according to the group’s annual reports.

Walsh Security is owned by Chicago police officer Thomas Walsh from the nearby 19th district. Racial equity activists recently focused their efforts on COH and its now-terminated contract with Walsh Security over the police officer’s actions toward a black security guard at a Boystown gay bar in 2013.

In late November 2013, Walsh battered a black security guard and used racist slurs during an altercation at the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, 3169 North Halsted, the Independent Police Review Authority determined.

Community members and activists have also accused Walsh Security of targeting and profiling persons of color who congregate in the Center on Halsted’s lobby.

Activists and their allies said it was another indication of the rampant racism in the community.

Local activist Jamie Frazier, the founder and lead pastor at Lighthouse Church of Chicago who was a prominent figure in much of last year’s protests against the Center on Halsted, was surprised and disappointed at NHBA’s commitment to Walsh Security.

“The fact that the Northalsted Business Alliance has not proactively fired Walsh after the public airing of his racist activities as well as his attempt to cover it up … shows the depths of racism in and around Boystown,” Frazier said.

According to the NHBA’s website, its board is made up of representatives from some of Boystown’s most popular businesses, including most of the neighborhood’s bars. Micah Hilgendorf, one of the co-owners of the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, where the 2013 incident involving Walsh took place, is also on the board.

Lighthouse Church’s Frazier said he planned to continue his work to dismantle racism in Boystown, including the continued employment of Walsh Security in the neighborhood. As part of that effort, he has met with business leaders, including the owner of Sidetrack and one of the co-owners of D.S. Tequila Co., a Boystown restaurant and bar.

“It is very clear to me that the Northalsted Business Alliance is not going to do the right thing unless they are pushed to do it,” he said. “I’m hopeful that they do the right thing and engage this work as partners, not as adversaries.”

In 2017, CWBChicago reported that internal NHBA documents showed the organization actually paid an unlicensed security company named A & T Security for patrol services, but the was done by guards who wore Walsh Security uniforms. A &T was owned by Walsh’s adult children, Amanda and Thomas Walsh Jr.

A person who is familiar with the arrangement speculated that the payments were made to A &T to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest with Walsh’s work as a local police officer.

Following CWB’s report, the state involuntarily dissolved A&T’s business license and state regulators levied discipline against the Walsh siblings, including fines of $5,000 each.

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About CWBChicago 6713 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com