Safety Ambassadors on patrol in Grand Rapids

7:58 AM, Sep 26, 2013   |    comments
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Safety Ambassador on the job

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WZZM) - Need directions? Advice on restaurants? Help with a package or an umbrella in the rain?

If you are in downtown Grand Rapids, those are some of the services a new squad of city safety ambassadors will provide.

"This puts a friendly, welcoming resource onto our sidewalks," explains Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. president Kristopher Larson.

"We can offer directions, open a door, umbrella services in the rain and an escort for people who need an extra hand," explains Safety Ambassador Operations Manager Melvin Eledge. "It's a good way to get out and be a part of the positive change that's going on in downtown Grand Rapids."

The eight-person ambassador team in teal uniform shirts was introduced Wednesday.  They will patrol the city on foot, bicycle and segways looking for citizens who need assistance and watching out for situations that require the police.

"And we contact the police immediately," says Eledge. "We are not here to arrest or detain anybody. We take down all the details police might need to know and a good description of the incident."

The Downtown Development Authority is paying an outside contractor almost $1 million to operate the ambassador program for at least three years. Larson says it will help people feel comfortable and safe when they are downtown.

"They are approachable, they are friendly and they are going to greet you with a big smile," he says.

"I think it's a great idea because lots of us come to Grand Rapids and don't really know where things are," says visitor Linda Hawkes.

"Yea, I think anything that promotes safety in this day and age is a wonderful idea," adds her friend Barbara Novak-Banta.

The eight new ambassadors aren't just for the ArtPrize competition.  They will be on the job throughout the year.

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