Safety Ambassadors Coming To Downtown Grand Rapids

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– The Downtown Development Authority has approved the hiring of safety ambassador firm “Block By Block” out of Kentucky to bring in personnel to Grand Rapids.

The group already runs the program out of 65 other cities and the DDA will spend up to $300,000 dollars to start training ambassadors in Grand Rapids.

It’s a non-conventional way to look at public safety, a way the DDA is hoping will help increase a sense of safety on the streets of downtown.

Kris Larson with the DDA says the training of the ambassadors and the deployment of them will vary on the needs but they’ll be trained to become an extra set of ‘eyes and ears’ for police.

They’ll be up to ten ambassadors patrolling an estimated 270 hours a week.

“They’ll also be working with the business community to stop and collect information on where we’re seeing trends and issues of concern. So then we can modify deployment or alert police of any arising trends we’re seeing,” said Larson.

The work they do will vary, for instance one of the ambassadors may be a licensed social worker. Working directly with people in need and encouraging them to use the services available in the community.

“Dealing with issues related to the perception of safety as well as the health of businesses social service outreach they are really going to be training across a range of disciplines to respond to any situational needs that arise.”

The ambassadors are expected to start sometime in the fall.

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5 comments

  • Matt Knaack

    Be wary of Block by Block and its parent company, SMS Holdings. Some have alleged that the company is anti-union and anti-worker, even though it is reportedly "faith-based" (Something tells me Christian values aren't based on greed and profit…): http://darwinbondgraham.blogspot.com/2012/01/sms-

    But if there are 270 hours being spent each week, that means that there will be 14,040 hours used each year (on a 52-week calendar). If the $300,000 is for a single year, then those individuals will be making more than $20 per hour–if there are ten "ambassadors" and they are all equally paid (ha), then they'll each make $30,000 per year. Doubt that this is the case, but who knows? Maybe the employees will be treated well. But Mr GreenJeens has a point, could this be better spent on the police force? Would it work better if officers were trained in social services and directing individuals toward services instead of ticketing or arresting them? There are lots of options (and variations of options) to think about here.

    • MikeGR

      It could be better spent on the police force, but it's not tax payer dollars so it's not up to you, Mr. GreenJeens or any other tax payer. Would it work better if you and Mr. GreenJeens actually finances some of your ideas yourselves? I wonder, too, if other cities use these sorts of ambassadors instead of police to provide directions despite being trained in social services? hmmm…