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Development Authority discusses hiring a security firm for downtown Decatur

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Development Authority discusses hiring a security firm for downtown Decatur

E. Court Square in downtown Decatur on May 18, 2021. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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Decatur, GA — The Decatur Downtown Development Authority is working toward hiring a security firm to provide an additional security presence in downtown Decatur.

At the Jan. 13 DDA meeting, Business Development Manager Shirley Baylis said she has gotten increased calls from local businesses with concerns about shoplifting and some employees not feeling safe going to their vehicles late at night.

“The discussion has been around what can we do with a decrease in police presence around the Square because they are in other area of the city, and they are short on staff as well,” Baylis said. “We sought out to start looking at what do those options look like for bringing in, possibly, a security service. We have looked at one that has a presence in the city already with one business.”

The city is considering working with Matrix Security, a Black-owned business that currently works with Worthmore Jewelers in Decatur.

Baylis and Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill also met with the Better Together Advisory Board to get input from them on the proposal from Matrix Security. Threadgill said the three things the city often hears about is security, cleanliness and beautification.

She also pointed to some issues of loitering, aggressive panhandling, littering, shoplifting, as well as smoking.

The program would supplement the police department and be a 90-day pilot program. There would be two security personnel in downtown Decatur Thursday through Sunday, 3 p.m. to midnight. Those are the key times when these issues are happening, Threadgill said.

“This is not about policing, or the unhoused population. That’s not the issue. It’s more about the aggressive panhandling. When we’re hearing from business owners, visitors, residents who are coming to downtown and having these experiences, they don’t want to return,” Threadgill said. “To have two individuals there at key times is something we are looking into.”

“We are here to retain businesses and recruit new businesses, and if we continue to have these issues, that’s a struggle for us. This is our living room and this is the first impression of the city for visitors. If we’re not taking care of our living room, that’s an issue for the city’s image,” Threadgill added.

The security personnel would be monitoring the Square, Church Street, East and West Ponce de Leon Avenue and Clairemont Avenue.

DDA Chair Conor McNally said he’s glad the city is looking into providing additional security downtown.

“I think everyone would agree this is core to our mission,” he said. “Our mission is to make sure we have an active and vibrant downtown, and that our businesses can be successful, and to recruit new businesses. We can’t do any of that if we have a serious issue.”

The city is having conversations with the police department to define the protocols for how the security firm would handle incidents of panhandling or shoplifting, and define the scope of services.

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