West Hollywood's security ambassador program aims to make residents feel safe again

Crimes against unsuspecting victims in very public ways has become a trend many have never seen before. Is there anything that can be done to make these types of attacks less frequent?

Since 2013, West Hollywood has been supplementing its public safety efforts through its Block by Block Security Ambassador program. Deployed on bicycles or on foot along major streets and more congested parts of the city, the unarmed, uniformed security ambassadors work in collaboration with the Sheriff's department to provide additional safety.

"Our mission is to be a visible deterrent on the street. To try to offset any low-hanging fruit criminal activity," said Shea Gibson, manager of the West Hollywood Security Ambassadors.

The mayor of West Hollywood, Lauren Meister, agrees.

"Just having them out there, the residents know that they're there and people who might be looking for an opportunity may be deterred by seeing them," she said.

In October of last year, West Hollywood chose to add a security ambassador kiosk near the intersection of La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. As a result, just a few feet from a flower bed that last year was a homeless encampment, you'll find an example of security and hospitality.

"People can come to that kiosk and get general information if they need to. They know it's a central location where an ambassador will be for sure. They can definitely find someone for safety or, again, general information, first aid, anything they might need at that moment," said Gibson.

A security ambassador's job isn't to make arrests - it's hopefully to stop a crime before it ever starts and, by just simply being visible in uniform, offering peace of mind to residents and business owners alike.

Nat Polhamus, the owner of New Profanity, believes it's a fantastic program. Polhamus moved her store to West Hollywood last year and says while other cities provide similar security, the commitment by West Hollywood to the program makes all the difference.

"They have several people covering West Hollywood so you always feel there's someone there that will have eyes on you in case something unfortunate happens," she said.

As an additional set of eyes and ears for the Los Angeles County sheriff, the ambassadors are also only a phone call or text away from someone who simply needs to be walked to their car late at night. That number is 323-821-8604 and can be used by anyone in the city.

"You ask the residents they love us here, they feel safer that we're here. We do personal escorts, we jump cars. We're everywhere. We're really ingrained in the community here and I think that's been the benefit of having us here," Gibson added.

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