Longmont Looks to Private Security to Help Patrol Parks, Parts of Downtown This Summer
Private security officers clad in khaki pants and gray shirts bearing the phrase “Longmont Welcoming Spaces Outreach Team” will begin patrolling parts of Longmont next week in a joint venture between the city and the Longmont Downtown Development Authority.
The new program, characterized as the use of a “private security force” in an internal city email obtained by the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, had not been announced publicly.
But when asked about it Wednesday, officials confirmed the city contracted the Trident Protection Group for “ambassador services,” and that those patrols will begin Monday in order to “provide some additional eyes and ears.”
“Their job is to be a welcoming presence in downtown and the greenways, troubleshoot issues that they find, answer questions, make connections with the community and keep Longmont an amazing place to dine, shop, work, live and play,” Assistant City Manager Sandi Seader wrote in an email. “We will evaluate the project at the end of the summer season to determine if it has merit for future years.”
The city and the Longmont Downtown Development Authority will share the 16-week program’s $29,440 cost, Seader said.
In an email to city department heads on May 30, Longmont Director of Operations Bob Allen explained that the unarmed security officers will patrol the Longmont Downtown Development Area as well as Roosevelt Park, Thompson Park, Collyer Park, the St. Vrain Greenway and the Lefthand Greenway.
The Longmont Downtown Development Area lies between First Avenue and Longs Peak Avenue, and between Martin Street and Terry Street. Representatives of the downtown organization couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
The security officers are not considered a police force and are not authorized to perform any duties reserved for police and code enforcement, according to the city. They will, however, be allowed to tag homeless camps with stickers informing occupants they have 24 hours to vacate the area.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Longmont Public Safety Chief Mike Butler said he supports the hiring of the private security firm to do work around homeless camps in certain parts of the city, but he declined to comment further.
Aside from the authorization to “tag camps,” neither Allen’s internal email nor the statement from the city on Wednesday raised the issue of homelessness as a motivation for the private patrols.
However, in a May 31 email to Longmont City Manager Harold Dominguez about the patrols, Butler wrote that it was “unfortunate that it has come to this,” and proceeded to raise his own concerns about homeless issues in Longmont.
“While this new group may ‘patrol’ certain areas of the community, it will only push the problems somewhere else in our community — I know you know that,” Butler wrote.
Butler added that public safety in Longmont is “consumed” by the issue of homelessness, with more than 50 percent of the police department’s use of force incidents involve homeless people. He added that Longmont is seeing more serious crime committed by homeless people, and violent crimes and property crimes are “ticking upward.”
Butler added, in his email to Dominguez, that Longmont is perceived as a city that provides homeless services without a “requirement to give back to our community,” and he asked for a conversation on how to change that perception so that it may stem the “migration of those struggling with homelessness to our community.”
“I also believe our community’s social capital would be activated especially if residents knew people receiving services were giving back to our community and doing their best to find another path,” he wrote. “At this point, the vast majority of our community sees these services as a way of accommodating a chosen life style.”
John Bear: 303-473-1355, email@example.com or twitter.com/johnbearwithme