Local News

Downtown Raleigh Steps up Patrols to Keep Area Safe

Posted December 14, 2006 6:47 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2006 11:14 a.m. EST

— Organizers of Raleigh's new downtown safety program hope it will deter crime and make workers in the area feel more safe.

The program was put in place after Progress Energy employee Cynthia Moreland was kidnapped from a downtown parking garage in August. She was later found dead behind an abandoned house in rural Harnett County.

"It made us very very nervous," said Sue Helmke, who's worked downtown as a state employee for about two years. "We did not feel secure. We complained a lot to the city."

Immediately following Moreland's death, the Raleigh Police Department reallocated resources to put more officers in parking decks in the mornings and the evenings.

Starting next week, at any given time 13 unarmed safety officers will be in the core of downtown patrolling the city's parking decks, parking lots and streets.

As part of the new program, an escort service to walk employees to their cars will be highly publicized.

"What's really significant now is that we have a completely coordinated downtown safety program where everyone is talking to each other," said Downtown Raleigh Alliance President Nancy Hormann.

The Alliance sent out a survey to 1,500 people who use city parking decks downtown. A majority responded saying that they feel safe in downtown decks. The Alliance hopes to increase that number with the new safety team. They will do additional surveys in three and six months.

"It's just a point of being more visible," safety officer George McDougald said.

According to the Alliance, downtown Raleigh is much safer than most people think. They say the reported crime rate for downtown is comparable to the safest residential neighborhoods in the city.

The new safety team will focus not just on crime prevention, but will also help to change the perception of downtown safety.