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Downtown Safety Becomes Job No. 1 for Raleigh

From new lights in parking decks to a safety patrol, the city is working hard to make people safer downtown.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — From new lights in parking decks to a safety patrol, the city is working hard to make people safer downtown.

The Raleigh Police Department plans to begin adjusting shifts to put more officers downtown as the weather warms up and more people take advantage of entertainment opportunities.

The move is in addition to the safety patrols recently launched by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance and extra lighting the city added to area parking garages.

"The police can't do it alone. It takes a safe environment, and everything that we've done to create a safe environment is going to help the police," police department spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

Major crimes are down slightly in the department's Downtown District through the first three months of this year when compared to a year ago, Sughrue said. The district covers a larger area than the entertainment district, he said.

Safety escort is just one of the responsibilities of Raleigh's Downtown Ambassadors, who also help visitors with directions and keep streets in the central business district clean. The group's bike patrol covers 110 blocks, focusing on downtown hot spots like Fayetteville Street and Glenwood South.

"(We're) helping out, assisting, deterring panhandlers, helping businesses create a positive image," ambassador Jamal Mohammad said.

The safety patrols began in December, but Raleigh police said it's too early to tell how effective they have been.

Meanwhile, Mayor Charles Meeker is touting the benefits of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. The lights use 40 percent less energy than conventional lights, and a recent survey shows people feel safer when the LEDs are added to parking decks and other areas to improve visibility, he said.

"It's our intention, assuming the price works out, that these lights will be placed in new garages as we retrofit them," Meeker said. "Also, we're looking for street light LEDs, which, of course, would be everywhere."

Molly Wheatley said she appreciates the additional security measures when she's downtown.

"When I go out, I'm always scared when I'm by myself," Wheatley said. "When I have someone I can call on, someone who can escort me, it's a great feeling."


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