Reporting Mai Martinez
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CHICAGO (CBS) – They have badges and uniforms, but no authority to direct traffic. Still, that’s not stopping private security guards from doing just that on a busy public street.
CBS 2′s Mai Martinez caught up with them and the frustrated drivers who want them gone.
The security guards work for Lycée Français de Chicago – the French International School of Chicago.
They’ve been directing traffic during the morning rush hour at Bittersweet Place and Marine Drive as drivers try to squeeze onto Lake Shore Drive at Irving Park Road.
“It’s a nightmare. Every morning it’s packed all the way back,” said Richard Eppers, one of dozens of drivers waiting at in line at the intersection of Bittersweet and Marine on Tuesday.
“It’s backed up all the way, it’s just ridiculous,” Eppers said as horns blared around him.
Many drivers blame the backups on the security guards at Lycée Français. The guards routinely stop cars on Marine Drive to allow drivers dropping students off at the school to get into traffic hassle-free, sometimes causing drivers with the right away to miss the green light.
“They can’t control the traffic. They really can’t,” said Barbara Fairchild, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than two decades. She said the security guards make the traffic situation around the school worse.
The school’s head of security said they asked the city for help, in the form of a traffic aide or police officer to direct traffic. But the school didn’t get one, so they asked their private security guards to step in, even though they have no authority.
As a CBS 2 camera rolled, car after car was allowed out of the school driveway by a security guard wielding a stop sign to hold oncoming traffic back, even though the oncoming traffic had the right of way.
At times, six or seven vehicles in a row poured out of the school as other drivers blew their horns and shouted at the security guards.
Drivers said it’s frustrating to spend 10 to 15 minutes at a stop sign when it’s a four way stop, and they have the right away.
”They shouldn’t be doing that, and something needs to be done about it,” said Eppers.
A school official said they got permission from the Town Hall police district to have private security direct traffic. But, according to Chicago Police, the commander at that district says that is not true and that she will look into the issue.
According to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, only OEMC or Chicago Police Department personnel can direct traffic on city streets. There are, however, exceptions for construction zones and work sites.