Ambassadors on patrol in Burlington to help keep holiday shoppers safe

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s downtown district will have a couple of extra sets of eyes and ears this holiday season to help keep shoppers safe.

Starting Nov. 3, you might see security guards or downtown safety ambassadors walking in pairs five days a week. They are there to help shoppers and employees feel safe.

“They can kind of provide any need on the street,” said Kelly Devine of the Burlington Business Association.

Devine helped coordinate the ambassadors. They work for Green Mountain Concert Services and will walk in pairs from Wednesday to Sunday from 2 p.m. until midnight.

Devine says it’s to help businesses and employees who say they don’t feel secure downtown after work because there are fewer police officers on duty.

“The behavior on the street has changed and we want to make sure that everybody who come downtown feels safe, so we felt the best thing to do is to put a couple extra friendly faces on the street to be that response,” Devine said.

This is an expansion of the safety escort service the BBA started downtown this summer, but these ambassadors will not only be able to escort business employees to their transportation, they can also give visitors maps or direct them to the nearest bathroom.

It’s being paid for by the city and private donations and can be a link to more intensive services if something serious happens.

“They are trained to de-escalate in case there are any conflicts on the street. They also serve as eyes and ears on the street so they can call Howard Center outreach team if they think there’s a mental health crisis occurring or they can call the Burlington Police Department if they observe anything criminal,” said Kara Alnasrawi, the Burlington economic recovery director.

Some people on Church Street said they are looking forward to the addition.

“I feel like if you know that there’s some sort of prevention or security measure or at least that somebody can go to for help, that would make a huge difference,” said Beth Quarles of Shelburne.

“We do have a number of patients that come to my office that do not feel safe. They have to navigate a number of individuals on the way to the office,” said Katie Anderson, who works downtown.

But others say the money should be put toward things like mental health services, diversity, equity and inclusion, or housing help.

“So instead of enforcing security in a city that’s unnecessary, we should focus our priority on that,” said Amber Anderson of Richmond.

De-escalation training for the downtown safety ambassadors, along with any downtown retail or restaurant people, is happening at the Howard Center this weekend. Click here for more information.

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