Thursday, July 9, 2009

Model for neighborhood policing

I didn't realize it had been almost a week since I posted - so this is a quick thought to keep things moving.

I wonder how much the Downtown Ambassador Force could be used as a model for neighborhood quasi-police forces. The Ambassadors are officially 'hospitality' workers who provide downtown workers and visitors with assistance for dealing with events, etc. In practice I think they are a quasi-police force that does quite a lot for residents peace of mind.

I didn't really appreciate the Ambassador Force until I started going to GSU and getting out of class at 10pm regularly. Almost every night when I get out of class and walk alone a few blocks to my car, there is at least one Ambassador standing on a street corner keeping a look out. Given the numerous crimes around Georgia Tech, I am very grateful to have an extra pair of eyes on the street keeping an eye out for me. Knowing that the Ambassadors have direct radio contact with APD dispatch is nice, too.

So could the Ambassador Force be a model for increasing the number of public safety officers in Atlanta? I presume that an Ambassador is cheaper to both train and keep on salary than a police officer, so the city's money could go a longer way. They are obviously most effective in pedestrian friendly areas, but could you focus a similar force in neighborhood commercial areas like Virginia Highland, Castleberry, and East Atlanta Village?

A lot of these areas currently hire off-duty police officers for similar services, but I kind of like the idea of having a separate force to do this kind of 'public presence'. On a simple level, the Ambassador's white shirts stand out at night a lot better than a dark police uniform. I also dislike the fact that off duty cops aren't getting enough money at their regular job, nor getting enough rest and down time off duty to be effective officers during the day.

I'm sure this idea needs LOTS more thought (including who the hell would pay for it) but it was something that occured to me as I left class today. I'm not entirely convinced it is a good idea, of course. Criticisms very welcome.


  1. Grant Park has started an Ambassadors program. It's specifically for the park -- not the neighborhood in general -- but the park is an integral part of the neighborhood, and I would imagine their presence provides peace of mind for tourists and people visiting from OTP.

    This program was funded by grants and by the neighborhood association, if I recall correctly, and is staffed mostly by volunteers.

  2. That's great! I used to live a block from the park, although I never felt concerned about going there. I didn't particularly care to walk through it at night - not well lit, etc.


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