PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A new downtown ambassador program is eyed to help welcome and guide visitors around the city's main corridor.
The program kicks off on July 21 and will put Berkshire Community College students downtown to provide information about where to park, eat, and shop, how to get around and what's happening around the city. The program evolved out of Downtown Pittsfield Inc.'s want for an increased police presence on North Street.
"I pushed for this innovative program in response to Downtown Pittsfield Inc.'s Quality of Life Committee's request for an increased presence of people who could provide information on the downtown area. To me, it made sense to partner with the Berkshire Community College’s criminal justice program to address the Quality of Life Committee’s request," Mayor Daniel Bianchi said in a prepared statement.
The city's Police Advisory Committee was advocating for the creation and hiring of a downtown police unit of five officers to provide additional patrols after hearing DPI's wishes for increase police presence.
The ambassadors won't have the authority of fully badged officers but will give the city some extra eyes to report any crimes or suspicious behavior. The students will be between Maplewood Avenue and West Housatonic Street in pairs helping to guide shoppers and visitors while providing that extra presence.
"The downtown ambassador program is a terrific example of the community coming together to address a perceived community condition. When the downtown merchants approached the Quality of Life Committee about an increased downtown presence, we realized we needed to take a creative approach. Improving on the previous ambassador program by including other city departments, DPI, and BCC seemed like a logical way to achieve that goal," said Police Chief Michael Wynn.
The Police Department and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department will work with the criminal justice students on orientation and procedures. The students receive course credit in return.
"We were so pleased to be given the opportunity by the mayor to support this important new initiative. We are excited to collaborate with Berkshire Community College, the Police Advisory Committee, the Sheriff's Department and Pittsfield Police on what will be a unique educational opportunity for students and a welcoming point of hospitality for our city," said DPI Board of Directors President Kate Maguire.
Peter Jones Trophies is supplying the apparel for he ambassadors.
The city had previously ran an ambassador program through grant funding in the early 2000s but cut as soon as he grants dried up. The students then helped with crime reporting, checking the parking garages, helped with large groups getting out of events and directed people around the area.
This revamped ambassador program will be coupled with the hiring of two additional police officers to patrol downtown - though those additional officers haven't yet been hired. The city is currently using overtime to pay for daily patrols downtown.
Bianchi added that the new program is another step toward greater collaboration with BCC.
"As we look towards making a career vocational and technical high school, and creating stronger connections between the future school and Berkshire Community College, I believe this is a perfect time to increase the city's connections between BCC and the community," Bianchi said. "Through the ambassador program, the students in the criminal justice program at BCC are able to gain viable experience right here in Pittsfield - the program acts as a practicum, similar to other vocational tracks."