This is my second post in the series called Downtown Living Myths. I realized after living downtown for a couple of years that many people who only come downtown for special events have the idea downtown Raleigh is not safe. Now, while I do understand everyone’s perception of safety is different, I can honestly say I consider this to be one of downtown’s biggest myths.
This is not an easy topic to discuss in Raleigh or anywhere else, and I should preface it by saying I don’t profess to be a safety expert by any means. I really feel bad for people who have negative safety related experiences, as they can be life changing events. However, when people considering living downtown ask me if it’s safe to walk at night on Fayetteville Street, or if it’s safe to park and walk to events downtown, I feel downtown still has a negative stigma, perhaps from what it used to be back in the 80s or 90s.
So why is it so different today from 10 years ago?
I found these articles from 2006 and 2007 that describe some of the efforts that where undertaken during downtown’s revitalization to address security concerns downtown. City leaders realized that to attract people to live downtown, the city had to improve everything from street lighting to providing more police coverage, so they invested in such efforts.
At the same time, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) also pitched in and created a program that exists to date called the Downtown Ambassadors. I cannot say enough good things about the downtown ambassadors.
These folks should be your best friends when you’re hanging out in the city. I see them every day! They typically wear read coats or shirts and are there to assist Downtown visitors, workers and residents by providing directions, information about restaurants and other attractions downtown. They also serve as additional eyes and ears for downtown discouraging aggressive panhandling and reporting problems to the proper authorities.
From the Downtown Raleigh Alliance website:
The Safety Ambassadors are trained to handle a variety of situations, including:
- Parking information
- Directions / Way-finding
- Dining, shopping, and other downtown attractions
- Calls for assistance to police, fire, EMS, and AAA
- Escorts along public property.
- Downtown project information
- Downtown parking deck security
Monday-Friday (6 am-12 midnight) and Saturday (10 am-12 midnight). In addition to these hours, Ambassadors also provide additional parking deck patrols Thursday-Saturday (12 midnight-2 am) and Sunday (8 pm-12 midnight).
To reach our Ambassadors, call the Safety Patrol Supervisor at 919.368.7962 for assistance.
This program, along with Raleigh Police Department’s stepped up efforts to ensure a safer urban core have really improved conditions in downtown. More and more, people are choosing to relocate downtown because of its reputation as a safe place to live.
Now, to be fair, just like in any other city, there are places where one should always use caution while walking or driving through late at night. There’s no substitute for common sense and caution when it comes to safety, whether you’re in downtown Raleigh or in Rome. When I used to live in North Raleigh, I often found myself walking the dogs at night being vigilant and aware of my surroundings at all times. I find it to be exactly the same here in downtown.
And yes, downtown Raleigh looks and feels ‘different’, and we love it that way! It’s diverse. It has its cast of regular characters you often see on the streets. The more time I spend walking around the more normal everything becomes, and the more I realize how wrong my initial assumptions where about safety in the city. Living around people from different backgrounds and cultures makes city living a much richer experience, and I can not be happier than I am today after making downtown Raleigh my home.