Private security guards that patrol Second Street in Belmont Shore will soon start working extended hours and move to a seven-day coverage plan after a city committee voted to expand their services along the busy corridor.
The Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Advisory Commission has been debating the issue for months after a man was stabbed at Livingston Park in May while holding his child.
Matt Peterson, the commission’s chair, said in July that the discussions came in direct response to the stabbing and other “quality of life” issues in the area.
“We can’t stop what’s happening, but we can mitigate it by throwing resources at it,” Peterson said at the time.
On Thursday, the commission voted unanimously to increase security from the six-hour shifts that C.S.I Patrol Services had been working on foot, bike and marked cars each Thursday, Friday and Monday. Soon, they’ll work seven days a week with security guards in the area from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The community’s gonna know we’re expanding security and we’re making the community safer,” Peterson said prior to the vote.
While there haven’t been large-scale “flash mob” robberies in the area, some stores have been targeted by thieves.
Heather Kern, executive director of the Belmont Shore Business Association, said that restaurants have seen people walk in and grab food and walk out while other retailers have had merchandise stolen—some multiple times.
“There has been at least one store that has been routinely targeted,” Kern said. “He’ll come in and just take and walk out, and he’s even apologized while he’s doing it.”
Other issues are similar to what other big cities are seeing, including unhoused people sleeping in front of businesses and people with mental health issues being disruptive.
Kern said she’s worked hard to make sure that her members know about the security team, which is still part of a pilot program funded through $125,000 in parking meter revenue, and that they know security can be called 24 hours per day.
“I just think it really provides a level of comfort to people and them being visible is really important,” Kern said.
There was some debate over how the additional hours would best be spent. Adding them to the early morning starting at 6 a.m. could help coffee shops and other stores that open earlier, but commissioners said that most of the problems they heard about or saw happened in the late afternoon.
The C.S.I. employees are limited in what they can do, according to Jason Richard, an operations manager with C.S.I. Richard explained that the company’s liability prohibits them from entering private businesses but they are able to detain people once they exit a shop.
“All our team does is go up to the front door and wait for them to come out,” Richard said of instances when people appear to be stealing.
The employees use body cameras when interacting with people on the street, Richard said, and they use a web-based reporting platform to track incidents that are shared with Kern and the commission.
Increases in patrols could be coming sooner rather than later. In a text message Friday, Peterson said that the new hours for the security team could take effect next week.