By Adriane Esteban, Budget Analyst at RMA
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates that there were over 32,000 people in Florida experiencing homelessness on any given night in 2017. As much as we feel for people affected by homelessness, the condition can create a significant problem for cities. When vagrants in prime commercial areas are consistently accosting patrons of retail and restaurant establishments, it creates a valid safety concern which then perpetuates the negative reputation of a blighted area. This perception can be especially hindering to growth in redevelopment areas, considering that a critical component to redevelopment is the physical reality that the zone is safe for new development.
Partnerships between residents, businesses and local governments are vital components necessary to implement programs that will reduce crime, improve neighborhood awareness and achieve a clean and safe environment.
Take Pompano Beach for example:
Under the direction of RMA, the City hired a private security firm to implement a Security Ambassador Program. Security Ambassadors are unarmed security professionals, many of whom are hired from the community, assigned to work with residents and business owners to “take ownership” of the area in which they live and work. These ambassadors function as the eyes, ears and heart of the community as they actively patrol to keep their area safe. Since they are usually the first at the scene within their patrol boundaries, they can assist local law enforcement as a reliable source of information regarding accidents, as well as suspicious or illegal activities.
What Were the Results?
Within the first year, illegal dumping, loitering, drug dealing, prostitution, vagrancy and other practices in the downtown were noticeably reduced. The community residents and business owners also said they felt safer seeing the Security Ambassadors patrolling the downtown.
If your city has a safety or homelessness issue, consider the implementation of a similar program to promote security as you work toward the revitalization of a specific sector. As the areas and the residents within it become safer, those fostering redevelopment reinforce the commitment of the local government in providing welfare to its community, future visitors and possible investors.