"They shoplift, they steal, they follow people from the store," said Betty Burlile, Chico resident.
Betty Burlile sees minor crimes all too often at the local markets and shops near her home on Park Avenue.
It's no secret that public safety is a constant concern in Chico ... Or that the budget is maxed-out.
"I think any help the city can get to facilitate the safety and well-being of it's citizens will be good for everybody," said Don McGee, Chico resident.
So, the city is improvising.
"We could have staffer with the city that makes 60,000 a year, they'd be opening and unlocking doors .. That could be an extremely expensive service that might be better to pay a crew to do in just an hour," said Stone.
The city's contracted with security companies to fill in the gaps for years now, but in 2015, the Downtown Chico Business Association hired on Armed Guard Private Patrol, setting a new precedent.
"A security guard without the training up to a full -fledged police officer, with 3 magazines up to their hip, open carry ... That's what I saw at a Thursday night market, in the children's section of the park," said Stone.
This year, the DCBA agreed to go back to unarmed security at their current contract's end.
But a Chico News and Review reporter pulled public records to learn the details of a new contract - one where city staff used about $67,000, mostly from the Public Works budget, to enter an annual contract with AG Private Protection.
Under the new contract, armed guards will now provide services at the Chico Municipal Airport, the depot, the downtown parking structure, city plaza and the parks, to name a few.
"Some are park clean-outs, some open and close gates - is all that have to require armed guards? Probably not, but in some cases that's probably prudent," said Stone.
And it makes financial sense - a new police hire could cost more than $150,000 a year.
Chico's Mayor Sean Morgan says AGPP is primarily a deterrent; they're not expected or asked to act in a law enforcement capacity.
But the concept is called into question after the break in to Mid-Valley Title and Escrow last July, where an AG security guard was attacked, then shot a burglary suspect, inflicting a wound that contributed to the burglar's death.
As for city staff making the decision without a policy discussion?
"The discussions were had between the police chief, the city manager and the security company so it was vetted,' said Stone.
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