DVI recently had a conversation with Downtown Ambassador Michael, an Ambassador for more than six years, about improvements in safety he’s witnessed Downtown over the years.
What changes have you seen over the years that have led to increased safety within the urban core?
We’re fortunate to have a close working relationship with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO). There are a number of officers who regularly patrol the streets, and we work together to deter crime and assist citizens.
What tools have you seen being implemented Downtown that assist with safety?
Adding patrol officers and Ambassadors on bikes has been a tremendous asset. It not only increases our visibility, but it also allows us to move between locations more efficiently and respond to incidents quicker.
What are some of the success stories you’ve seen in crime prevention Downtown during your tenure as an Ambassador?
I’ve seen everything from robberies to purse snatchings. But in every case, local citizens got involved and reacted quickly by notifying an Ambassador or officer. I’ve actually followed suspects while on the phone with JSO thanks to the quick action of local citizens who made a mental note of what the suspect was wearing, what direction they were heading and other descriptions that helped us track them down.
What tips do you have for people who may be visiting, living or working Downtown to continue to improve safety?
I would suggest the following:
- Even though employees are inside a building, their property is still at risk. Always lock valuables, such as a purse, wallet or cell phone, in your drawer even if you’re stepping away from your desk for just a few minutes.
- Employees who are leaving the office alone after dark, especially during Daylight Savings Time, can call a Downtown Ambassador at 904-465-7980 for an escort during operating hours.
- All visitors walking Downtown should be vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times. Just because you’re in a familiar area doesn’t mean you can let your guard down.
- Always park in well lit areas at night. Also, notice nearby landmarks so you can find your car quickly. People who look confused or lost put themselves at greater risk for street crime.
- Always lock your car, and do not leave anything visible inside the car, such as a GPS or radar detector. This invites car thieves to break in.
- I advise women not to open their purse in public for any reason, especially if someone asks for change for a parking meter. It not only exposes your wallet but also distracts women while they’re digging through their purse, putting them at risk of a purse snatching.
- Never, ever give money to panhandlers. Panhandling is illegal, and it’s important everyone does his or her part to deter this crime.
- My final tip would be that all Downtown visitors should program the JSO non-emergency number – 904-630-0500 – into their cell phone for immediate access to assistance.
For more information on the Downtown Ambassadors program, including its hours of operation, visit its webpage. This blog post is part of a series highlighting November as Downtown Safety Awareness Month. Learn more about this initiative here, and follow the conversation on social media at the hashtag #DTJaxSafe.