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Fashion District's 'Clean and Safe Team' team set standard for Business Improvement Districts

By Andrew Lopez
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012, at 11:12AM
Courtesy Clean and Safe Team

The Fashion District Clean and Safe Team sweep the streets, remove graffiti and are the eyes and ears for the police.

On any given day, about 10 security and 20 maintenance workers sporting yellow polo shirts patrol 115 sq. blocks that make up the Fashion District -- working to keep the area safe and clean for shoppers and merchants.

Contracted through a security service, Securitas, the Safe Team, in addition to the Facilities Support Services-contracted Clean Team, work around the clock, 365 days a year.

The reason, operations director Randall Tampa said, is simple.

“If it’s not clean, or if people have the perception that it’s not safe down here, they’re not going to come and shop,” Tampa said. “Just come down here on the weekend and it’s bustling.”

For the Safe Team, that means constantly watching out for illegal vendors, including illegitimate merchants selling baby turtles and gangs selling bootleg DVDs.

“Whenever we have an issue with the gang members, it’s one way or another related to illegal vending,” Tampa said. “They are very aggressive, they are violent. If ever we’ve been in altercations, nine times out of 10 it’s been with DVD vendors.”

On one weekend alone, 2,400 DVDs were confiscated and handed over to the Motion Picture Association of America, Tampa said.

As for pets being sold in the district, most commonly baby turtles, they are handed over to animal rescue services.

Tampa said that while the Safe Team has been known to make the occasional arrest, 75 percent of the job is helping people find their car on a busy weekend or reuniting junior with his parents.

“We are the eyes and ears for the police,” Tampa said. “We tell the police officers that too, ‘we are not you. You guys are the police, we are safety officers.’”

The Clean Team also does their fair share of work to keep the area desirable to shoppers.

“We pick up on average 5.3 tons of trash per day,” Tampa said. “That’s a lot of darn trash.”

There are also sweepers who work their own beat, cleaning the sidewalk in front of storefronts so shoppers can easily move through the often-busy streets.

Jonathon Luna, an employee of a shop along Santee Alley said he’s seen an improvement of the street because of the team’s work.

“The streets are cleaner than before,” Luna said.

Though they did not want to give an official comment, a few other merchants also expressed their approval of the work being done by the security and maintenance workers.

The Clean and Safe Team are employed entirely through the Downtown Property Owners Association. The Fashion District was the first property-based Business Improvement District (BID) in Downtown, beginning in 1996 when property owners voted to assess themselves a fee in order to pay for the maintenance and security services, executive director Kent Smith said.

"We have definitely set the standard," Smith said.

As of now, the property owners pay about $3 million a year for the Clean and Safe Team, with some of the smallest properties paying approximately $50 a year, and the largest paying about $80,000.

The assessments factor front footage, square footage and other building specifications, Smith said.

Both Smith and Tampa believe BIDs like that of the Fashion District have played a small but significant role in the revitalization of Downtown.

“These are tough economic times and yet, people are still, they still understand the value of having a BID down here,” Tampa said.

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