Private security guards will soon be adding “extra pairs of eyes” to downtown Annapolis.
The Downtown Annapolis Partnership announced Thursday that it received a $90,000 grant from Community Safety Works paid through a police funding initiative by Governor Larry Hogan.
Instead of hiring police officers, however, the money will be used to hire “security ambassadors” who work for a private security company, said Erik Evans, executive director of the Downtown Partnership. He asked for the money after meeting with officials from the city and the Annapolis Police Department and receiving their blessing. Safety ambassadors will patrol areas frequented by shoppers, diners and tourists.
“It was the best way to help improve safety downtown,” Evans said.
A union spokesperson for the Annapolis Police Department was ill and unable to comment. Mayor Gavin Buckley, who owns several restaurants downtown, also did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the police department information officer.
Evans acknowledged that the challenge facing businesses in the city is partly a problem of perception; people hear of crime and are reluctant to come downtown, even though the incidents took place far from West Street, Main Street and City Dock.
“People bundle up the whole town sometimes,” Evans said.
Security guards won’t be working around the clock and will be unarmed, Evans said, but “one or two” at a time will likely be on duty during the day within weeks. He declined to name the security company, but said the Downtown Partnership is set to sign a contract with a company that will keep guards on the streets until the end of the year.
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As well as calling the police if needed, guards will offer directions to everything from car parks to Irish pubs, Evans said. They can also notify the city’s public works department if they notice safety hazards like broken bricks.
“They’ll help people feel safer and be more secure,” Evans said.
Grant funding will also be used to improve Wiseman Park, a so-called “pocket park” on the first block of West Street. Evans said the Downtown Partnership plans to meet with neighboring property owners, the Annapolis Recreation and Parks Department and other city employees later this month to discuss possible upgrades, including new benches, additional lighting and security cameras.
Nonprofits that support business districts were eligible to apply for up to $100,000 in state funding.
According to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the money can be used for “community/business district related safety improvements that implement the business district plan to make spaces public and private safer and more defensible”.
Other business districts across the state that have received grants from Community Safety Works include Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street in Baltimore City and the Downtown Frederick Partnership, which plans to add lighting along a driveway leading to parking.
“We are empowering local organizations and residents to take an active role in making their communities safer,” Hogan said in a statement announcing the grants.