Days after a video circulated online showing a woman being assaulted by a homeless man while walking in Downtown Long Beach, city officials are calling for an “enhanced and renewed focus” on safety for the area.

The Oct. 20 assault happened just before 2 p.m. and Long Beach Police Department officers arrested a 30-year-old man a few hours later.

Mayor Rex Richardson called the assault “absolutely unacceptable” in his weekly livestream Tuesday morning and reiterated those comments during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

“To be clear, we shouldn’t have had this situation happen in the first place,” Richardson said. “Every resident should feel safe to walk through our Downtown or any neighborhood in our city.”

Richardson said he would call on the county to provide more resources to help deal with the mental health and substance abuse issues that have cropped up in Downtown as the city enters its 11th month of a declared emergency on homelessness.

Councilmember Mary Zendejas, echoing what Richardson had called for earlier in the day, asked the city manager’s office to develop an “enhanced and renewed focus” for the Downtown area including strategies to support businesses, some of which have complained about repeat break-ins.

Zendejas also asked for data on the current climate for businesses and for the city to seek more mental health and substance abuse resources from the county.

What the new focus could entail is unclear.

When asked to elaborate on what the new approach should include, Richardson’s office deferred to Zendejas. Zendejas did not return a request for comment prior to publication.

After publication, Zendejas’ office sent a statement saying, in part, “The emergency being city wide has really been about long term planning and we’ve been doing a great job at building shelter capacity and increasing housing production. However, there hasn’t been a downtown specific plan, and with the downtown being the economic driver of the City, generating the majority of tax revenue, we cannot afford to lose the narrative on the perception of it being unsafe.”

City Manager Tom Modica said his team would come back to the council with some potential new strategies to increase public safety in the coming weeks and some members urged cautioned about taking resources away from other parts of the city that also have seen increased concerns about crimes.

“We don’t want to rob from this district to make this district work better,” Councilmember Al Austin said.

Austin Metoyer, president and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, which provides services like street maintenance and security in the Downtown area, said that there are several things that could help the situation.

Lighting and cameras could help enhance safety as well as finding a way to make private security in the area more intertwined with the Long Beach Police Department, Metoyer said. Doing that could put more “eyes on the ground” and could lead to faster and more effective responses to crime in the area.

Metoyer said he’d like to see a police presence on Pine Avenue and the waterfront but cautioned that not all crime happening in the Downtown area is attributable to unhoused people and that whatever the city comes up with “needs to be balanced with not over-policing.”

The DLBA has increased the number of safety ambassadors it deploys, and they patrol the area seven days a week, Metoyer said. On any given shift that could mean roughly 20 safety ambassadors who can do things like help people jumpstart their cars or escort people within the DLBA’s coverage area to their vehicles if they feel unsafe.

New housing projects beginning to lease out their units like The Broadstone (189 units), The Aster (218 units) and Third and Pacific (271 units) will bring more residents to the area, which could help cure one of the other problems facing downtowns across the country: a lack of people due to the shift to remote work.

“We’re going to see a lot more folks moving into these spaces who want to be in Downtown who are going to be seeking activity on the ground floor,” he said.

Homelessness and public safety issues have long been concerns voiced by Downtown residents and business owners. The complaints range from property damage with businesses having their windows broken—some multiple times—to public drug use, encampments and people with mental health issues wandering the streets.

Last year, the City Council asked Los Angeles Metro to look at its end-of-the-line policy that some said contributed to the growing homeless population in the city because the agency clears its trains of passengers each night at the First Street station.

Metro officials and the city are still looking for a solution, but Richardson said earlier this year that the current focus is on creating some sort of service hub at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, not in Long Beach.

Shortly after the city asked Metro to look at its policies, the Long Beach Business Journal obtained emails to city officials where several prominent Downtown businesses were described as considering closing their locations due to ongoing public safety issues, noisy construction and an out-of-control homeless population that was reportedly driving away business.

One of those businesses, Beachwood Brewing, announced this month that it had sold its Downtown location at The Promenade and Third Street. Its last day of operation is Oct. 28.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with a statement from Mary Zendejas.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.