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PHA Hires New Firm To Handle Public Housing Security

The Peoria Housing Authority is tapping a Rockford-area firm to provide private security services at its properties.Security Pro Intel is expected to take over public housing security in the first week of February. The company replaces Peoria-based Pinnacle Security, whose handling of security concerns at the Taft Homes last summer was harshly criticized by residents.

Housing Authority Deputy Director Melissa Heffstedtler said she believes the new firm is a better fit.

"They are familiar with working with housing authority families," she said. "They are less militarized, and more geared toward providing safety and security services."

The new guards won't carry guns, but will be armed with pepper spray. Guards will work in pairs and stay in touch through cellphones.

The PHA board unanimously approved a $64,000 contract with the company at its January meeting. Another firm that applied withdrew its bid following an interview with the search committee.

Peoria Police Lt. Earnest McCall, who was involved in finding the new security contractor, said while he doesn't expect any problems, the proof is ultimately in the pudding. He said there are fail-safes in the new agreement if things don't work out.

"We put a couple of stopgaps in place to make sure we don't have the same problems we had with the previous security contractor," McCall said.

While PHA Board Chairman Carl Cannon's questions about the company's track record on minority hiring didn't find immediate answers, McCall said they're looking to hire security guards locally.

"We just think we'll have increased coverage and accountability from our vendor on this contract," Heffstedtler said.

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Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.