They’re calling them “downtown ambassadors.”
Private contractors hired by the Downtown Business Improvement Area are supposed to help tourists find their way, make change for parking meters and look out for litter-bugs in Peterborough and those engaging in anti-social behaviour. And according to DBIA executive director Terry Guiel, it’s going well.
“Our businesses love it. I’ve got several emails, and people have been coming in, talking, saying how much they love the program” reports Guiel.
According to the petition, “The Downtown Ambassador Initiative will push poor people out of public spaces in the interests of downtown businesses, leading to intimidation, harassment and the criminalization of those facing mental illness, poverty and homelessness.”
“I don’t think Peterborough should have private policing in the downtown. I think we should leave that up to the Peterborough police,” says Ferrio.
Guiel explained Thursday the Downtown Ambassador Program is only the first step in promoting the idea that downtown is safe.
Later this month, the DBIA will work with poverty, addiction and mental health experts to work the streets, to talk to those who struggle with these issues and are often pointed out as contributing to the belief that downtown Peterborough is not safe.
“We are working on doing the outreach and doing the engagement with the marginalized and with those on the street, and we’re going to find out what could help them,” says Guiel.
The Downtown Ambassador program will run until mid-September at which point its effectiveness will be evaluated.