Strategies to foster a safe, welcoming environment in Bellingham’s downtown are continuing and new initiatives being added, including a new safety ambassador program, a focus on graffiti removal, and downtown business support through the new ‘City Block’ leadership council.
The City of Bellingham and Downtown Bellingham Partnership (DBP) have partnered on these efforts and others to improve the sense of safety and create a welcoming atmosphere downtown.
A community meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 21, 2022, at the Boundary Bay Beer Garden, offering an opportunity for downtown business owners and others to learn more about these and other new initiatives.
“We have initiated a number of new services downtown, in collaboration with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and with participation and feedback from our downtown business community,” Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said. “We are seeing positive results downtown from our focused efforts on safety, sanitation and outreach services, and we anticipate further successes with new initiatives beginning this spring.”
In April, downtown safety ambassador teams will begin patrolling on foot and bicycle, offering business checks, de-escalation of nuisance behaviors, and assistance to those in need. Through this new program, a team of 2-3 ambassadors will provide a positive presence on the street and coordinate with other downtown services such as cleaning, graffiti removal and homeless outreach to quickly responds to behavioral and cleaning needs.
The teams are overseen by the DBP and managed by Streetplus, a nationally recognized leader in downtown cleaning and safety services. Recruiting for safety ambassador positions is underway now, see the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, Public Safety and Security webpage.
The $400,000 cost for this two-year pilot program is paid for by the City of Bellingham using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which are intended to support districts struggling with COVID-related impacts.
“The Downtown Bellingham Partnership is excited about establishing an ambassador program this spring, which will create a dedicated workforce focused on safety and security issues in the downtown core,” said DBP Executive Director Alice Clark. “We believe everyone will benefit from the program including business owners, employees, residents, visitors, and those in need.”
The ambassador program is following in the footsteps of the highly regarded downtown safety patrols, which began in January, offering similar services using hands-off, unarmed strategies. This 24/hour, 7/day a week presence is provided by the City via a contract with Risk Solutions Unlimited (RSU), a locally-based private security company with an emphasis on de-escalation and relationship building. With the launch of the safety ambassador program, RSU services will reduce to 12-hour overnight shifts, with daytime hours covered by the new safety ambassadors.
Other services recently enhanced or initiated include:
- Additional Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) staff, a service provided by the Opportunity Council’s Homeless Service Center to provide resources to those experiencing homelessness;
- Additional City street crew staff to assist with graffiti removal, cleaning and repairs;
- Funding for a new graffiti removal pilot program to assist private property owners with reporting and removing graffiti;
- Hiring of additional DBP cleaning and landscaping staff;
- Creation of a ‘City Block’ leadership council to identify, train and gather downtown business leaders to provide better communication, identify needs and share resources.
The community meeting will be held 5:30-6:30 p.m. April 21 at the Boundary Bay Beer Garden, located at 1107 Railroad Avenue. Representatives from the City, DBP, and various downtown service providers will describe their programs in more detail and be available to answer questions.