Upgraded security begins downtown

February 26, 1993

If you happen to be in downtown Baltimore Monday, look around: 35 public safety guides and 28 "clean sweep ambassadors" will be there supplementing regular law enforcement officers and sanitation crews. Say hello to them. From now on they will be around from noon to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

The public safety guides, easily recognizable by their black uniforms and purple hats, and the red-uniformed sweepers are among measures the Downtown Partnership is introducing to make the city's commercial and tourism district more appealing to residents, visitors and shop keepers. This is only the beginning. Other steps include providing improved lighting and security for downtown streets and parking areas.

We welcome this effort to bring more activity and vitality to an FTC area roughly bounded by Centre Street on the north, Pratt Street on the south, the Fallsway on the east and Greene Street on the west. As these borders show, downtown is much more than the Inner Harbor, Charles Center or Lexington Market. Several other American cities have previously supplemented the regular police and sanitation forces in designated areas with privately financed auxiliaries.

In Baltimore, this effort is being coordinated by the Downtown Partnership which last year got the right to impose a surcharge on commercial properties within the downtown business district. estimated $1.7 million raised that way will provide not only upgraded safety and sanitation but promotion and recruitment of new businesses.

If a downtown progress report were to be written today, it would paint a mixed picture. The Inner Harbor, clearly, is doing quite well.

It will do even better after a number of projects now under way -- such as the Christopher Columbus Center and the redevelopment of The Block -- are completed.

UniversityCenter, not far from Oriole Park, is a beehive of construction activity. It will strengthen retail potential in and around Lexington Market. Many Charles Street businesses also are doing reasonably well.

Howard Street and Park Avenue continue to be problem arteries. They have splendid redevelopment prospects but so far little has happened. In fact, in both areas the large numbers of people who are idle, dysfunctional or down on their luck tend to frighten other people away.

The "clean and safe" program is a good start. But crime and sanitation questions are only part of the downtown image problem.

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