On Thursday, downtown leaders laid out some of the details of the plan, which they say is already producing results.
For years now, downtown business owners have been frustrated by the vandalism, the theft – all kinds of problems in the downtown area. Thursday was the day downtown merchants thanked the city for trying to help by funding three months of private security in a particularly vulnerable section of downtown Bakersfield. But not just private security, and not necessarily just for three months.
Wednesday night the council appropriated $50,000 for a security detail with the power to disburse and detain. And unlike the previous contracted security agency, this one is armed. Councilman Ken Weir, whose newly rejiggered 3rd Ward now includes Westchester and downtown north of 24th Street, says O and A Security is hands-on.
“They will come in and they will not just see something and report it,” Weir said, “they will get out and do something about it. And that’s what we need.”
Downtown might be the beneficiary of this attention because it has been especially hard hit but Weir says everyone will be watching this phase of the project. Expansion to other parts of the city, starting with more of downtown, is the goal.
“What’s going on here is a scourge in the city,” Weir said. “It really is. It’s happening all over the city. But there are places which seem to attract more of it than others. That’s what we’re trying to do here. It’s a trial area … let them do their job, see how it goes, and make sure it’s working.”
At Thursday’s Downtown Business Association meeting, the organization swore in its 20 new block captains – part of a project DBA president and CEO Melanie Farmer said is effectively facilitating communication among merchants. Farmer is grateful for that kind of participation but she’s also grateful for the city’s support.
“This is a huge impact, huge impact for downtown,” Farmer said. “So, this is the city hearing us, feeling our needs, the needs of the businesses, and right now it’s private security. This is a six-month, seven-month project, still going, and knowing that the city hears us and sees us and backs us to have more private security downtown, is amazing.”
The city, the DBA and its partners will revisit the program in three months. By that time the DBA will have put together a formal RFP – requests for proposals – for a private security contract for all of the city’s central business district.