Is there a noticeable positive improvement on the Promenade? Photo by George Robertson.
by City staff and the Downtown Ventura Partners
There’s a noticeable positive improvement in our parks downtown — an uptick in visitors and programs that show we value public places and desire to make them safe for all to enjoy. One of the best ways to keep our parks safe and friendly is to use them frequently. Committed to this goal, the City of Ventura, in collaboration with Downtown Ventura Partners (DVP), maintains Park Security Ambassadors six days a week to help deter and report unwanted behaviors while ensuring a safe, clean and welcoming environment.
The program is gaining momentum with results, so much so that the City recently expanded the Ambassador program by increasing service hours and expanding the coverage area to the Promenade. The results were immediate. Police officials reported that calls for service to the City’s dispatch center for issues on the Promenade dropped in half – from 144 calls in May to 74 calls in August – in the program’s first full month on the scene.
First introduced in March 2015, the positive effect can be seen in both Plaza Park and Mission Park, and along Main Street and now the Promenade . Park Ambassadors average more than 500 contacts a week with park visitors, businesses, and transients and report issues to the City and others.
The program’s success has led to improvements in cleanliness and safety, reduced public safety calls for service, reduced vandalism in public restrooms and park areas, increases in access to care for homeless individuals, and opportunities to identify long-term solutions for homelessness. Among the bright spots, the team of Park Ambassadors have built relationships with various needy individuals, some on the streets for years, and have used the DVP’s Family Reconnection Program to reconnect over 40 individuals with relatives, loved ones or into service centers.
With the enhanced sense of safety, Mission Park has been activated to promote the health of students from a local school with a new pilot program. Students now recreate on the grass through a use agreement with the City’s Parks Department, and a consistent presence provided by the Ambassadors before and after the school children arrive. The park is activated two days a week enabling students to participate in physical activity during recess. Mission Park provides the perfect opportunity for students to be involved in vigorous play which also helps to improve concentration skills in the classroom.
Ambassadors also are doing their part to remove litter and trash, removing on average 50 pounds of trash weekly between the two parks. They handle or report all graffiti removals, access to the restrooms and help maintain the general cleanliness of the parks.
The Ambassadors work hand-in-hand with the members of the Ventura Police’s Patrol Task Force, county behavioral health staff and other social services outreach efforts to track progress of homeless contacts. They also act as the community’s eyes and ears, reporting incidents of criminal activity, ordinance or code violations to ensure a safe environment in our parks, downtown businesses and beachfront.
The program is paid partially by DVP and from the City’s General Fund, which is the same fund that pays for police, fire, parks, programs for seniors and youth, and other critical services. With additional funding, this important program could be expanded and become permanent.
Ventura values our parks, historically and culturally significant places, and having space to simply enjoy the outdoors. Park Security Ambassadors help protect what makes Ventura an attractive visitor destination and a desirable place to live.