A photo of the exterior of Riverside City Hall.
A photo of the exterior of Riverside City Hall in downtown Riverside. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez)

The Riverside City Council last week unanimously approved the Security Resource Pilot program to provide increased security in both the Downtown Riverside and Magnolia Corridor areas.

“Anytime we have an opportunity to add additional resources to basically fortify our commitment to public safety and cultivate a sense of security in our community, we’re going to take it,” Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said.

The pilot program takes a five-pronged approach that includes assessing the city’s current security cameras, engaging with stakeholders, providing security training for area businesses, expanding outreach and increasing security guard services.

Gonzalez said there has been a 16% increase in 311 service requests from last year when comparing the period of January to August, which includes calls for maintenance, outreach, debris, loitering, parking lot maintenance and hazardous waste matter.

“You realize these aren’t all obviously police related problems, but a lot of times that first responders are tasked with some of these calls.”

To help alleviate what Megan Stoye, principal management analyst, called the “service burden” on the police department to ensure they’re able to respond to crime-related calls, the pilot will introduce foot patrols for Downtown Riverside and hybrid vehicle/foot patrols in the Magnolia Corridor area.

Patrols in the downtown area will focus on the area between Market and Orange streets from 6th to 9th streets and will be active 4 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on the weekends. The Magnolia Corridor service area includes the area surrounding the 91 Freeway from west of La Sierra Avenue to east of Maude Street with patrols active between the hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“The locations, or the specific areas of focus, associated with the hybrid and foot patrol will be guided by activities that the police department will lead us into,” Stoye said. “They’ll provide us with insight into which areas we need to go into.” 

She said the patrols are expected to be implemented later this month and will be in place through June 30, 2024, as part of the pilot program at a cost of nearly $270,000. There is also a 20% contingency of about $54,000 that can be used in the event the pilot program needs to be modified. 

Riverside Downtown Partnership Executive Director Janice Penner, resident and business owner Robert Zablockis, Hyatt Place General Manager Johnny Freese, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce President Nicholas Adcock and resident Lou Monville all spoke in favor of the pilot program noting the number of unhoused residents in the city and the impact it has had on businesses.

“Obviously, I think we’re all aware that we’ve increasingly had challenges with homeless individuals, vagrant individuals, and just a general challenge of public safety not only in downtown, but in various elements across our city,” Adcock said. “We’re well aware of that challenge, but obviously we have an opportunity to test something and that’s what we’re doing.”

Concerns about the city’s unhoused population were echoed by Councilmember Jim Perry who lamented the amount of money the city has spent on what he called an “out of control” issue.

“Here we are, primarily again due to the homeless, we’re having to open up the cash register and spend a great deal of money,” Councilmember Jim Perry said. “Money that could be used better for programs and services that we provide to our public, but unfortunately, we’re in this predicament.”

As part of the pilot program, the security patrols will report back to city staff about the types of interactions they’re having with people, the time of day and the location. The city will also continue to monitor 311 service request calls and incident and property reports to the police department and will conduct business satisfaction surveys to evaluate the pilot program’s success.

If the city chooses to implement the pilot program on a more permanent basis, it would have to go through the formal bid process, instead of continuing to amend its contract with Allied Universal Security Services.

A video of the meeting can be found here on the city’s website.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.