Cedar Rapids Pleased With Ambassador Program
Cedar Rapids' downtown ambassador program was an initiative launched in response to rising tensions in downtown, particularly the Greene Square Park and library area. Several fights in the area in summer 2018, including one resulting in death, brought about the idea for a change.
The program hires formerly homeless people, for $10.25 per hour, to watch the neighborhood and intervene during fights and altercations to simmer down the hostilities.
The police at least partially credit the ambassadors for fewer service calls they are receiving in the areas of harassment, disturbance, domestic disturbance, and indecent exposure.
It's not solving every problem. Vandalism, drugs, weapons, unconscious people reports and attempted suicides are either flat or increasing in number, but city leaders and authorities are satisfied with the progress in the program's first several months.
The city council, Linn County supervisors, Public Transit Department and Downtown District provide the funding and support for the ambassadors, who are there to
"remind people of rules, such as no drinking or smoking, reduce pressure on police, inform people in need about resources, collect trash and otherwise be a positive influence on the core of the community"
A confrontation that was diffused by two of the ambassadors outside the library just last week is an example of how successful the program is so far, according to organizers.