Research findings on the role of Business Improvement District security services, their association with public police and their ability to safeguard commercial districts are presented in this article.
The recent proliferation of Business Improvement Districts in Philadelphia resulted in a need for better organized and complementary crime prevention services between public and private law enforcement officials. In Philadelphia, the Center City District addressed the issue by coordinating public police services within the district. Instead of having two districts responsible for overlapping areas, a sub-district was created which covered both districts and was controlled by a single police commander. Sixty-nine officers from the two existing districts were recruited for foot and bicycle patrol in the new sub-district. Secondly, the Center City District appointed a crime prevention specialist tasked with conducting crime prevention training seminars and analysis of crime trends. Lastly, a customer service representative program was created. Customer service representatives are unarmed uniformed patrolmen. Customer service representatives are tasked with a custodial role secondary to the public police's role. The Customer Service Representative utilizes a two-way radio and alerts a central dispatcher upon witnessing criminal acts or suspicious behavior. The dispatcher then contacts the central police dispatch system. Training requirements for customer service representatives are more vigorous than those for private security companies and include at least 2 years of college. The customer service representative program is managed by the crime prevention specialist who is generally a retired police officer. The crime prevention specialist is responsible for strategic planning and ongoing evaluation of the program. Review of official records and direct observation of Customer Service Representatives activity demonstrated that they were effective in achieving crime prevention for commercial districts. They provide a vital link between police, private security, and the public. Public surveys evidence public appeal for customer service representative programs. Given the success and popularity of these programs many more are likely to be implemented. 41 Notes