Milt Rosenbaum hopes things pick up this year at his small business with the help of a plan by the Downtown Partnership to put the charm back into Charm City.
By Feb. 8, about 35 public safety guides and 28 "clean sweep ambassadors" are expected to be out patrolling and cleaning Baltimore's Downtown Management District.
The goal is to make the area safer, cleaner and more hospitable for people who live, work and visit there.
"We're anxiously looking forward for this to happen," said Mr. Rosenbaum, owner of Hosiery World at 211 W. Saratoga St., adding: "We've been here for 20 years and we do well. But we could do better if people get rid of their bad perceptions of the downtown area."
Mr. Rosenbaum said many potential customers avoid shopping downtown because they mistakenly perceive it to be a high-crime area. He said he hopes that the district's new safety guides will ease public concern about shopping downtown.
The Downtown Management District is a 98-square-block area bordered by Pratt, Centre and Greene streets and the Jones Falls Expressway.
The guides will perform "nonconfrontational" roles in this geographical region, assisting the Baltimore police in crime prevention.
So far, more than 750 people have inquired about the positions.
The Downtown Partnership, the nonprofit organization that will administer the district, is in the process of hiring the public safety guides.
Maj. Frank Russo, a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department and a former commander of the Central District, will supervise the safety guide program.
Major Russo said the purpose of the safety guides is to deter crime, not to act as a new police force.
"Their presence alone can prevent a crime in that they may reduce the opportunity for crime," Major Russo said.
The safety guides will be equipped with walkie-talkies as well as self-defense and CPR skills, an understanding of citizen's arrest procedures and knowledge of Baltimore's history.
"People can say, 'Where is the Walters Art Gallery?' and the guides will be able to help them," Major Russo said.
Uniforms, which have not yet been selected, will be distinguishable from those worn by city police officers, he added.