ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s been 100 days into the Orlando Downtown Ambassador Program, and statistics from the Orlando Police Department show an 11 percent drop in overall crime in the area.
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The pilot program is designed to improve safety, security, and cut down on aggressive panhandling downtown in a kind, compassionate way.
Orlando Police looked at the crime numbers from September 2017 and compared it to numbers from 2018 in the areas where the ambassadors patrol. They say along with overall crime declining, city ordinance violations are down 10 percent, and petty theft is down 9 percent.
Organizers and leaders of the program shared their results with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the County Commission Monday.
So far, they’ve observed 204 aggressive panhandlers, helped alert police to 77 suspicious activity incidents, and identified 159 people who needed emergency services.
Business owners spoke up at the workshop, saying downtown Orlando is in direct competition with other tourist destinations, like Disney Springs, Universal's CityWalk, and Park Avenue in Winter Park.
To supplement this progress in the downtown area, a new program is being launched called the Give Smart Campaign. The idea is to curb people from giving money directly to panhandlers.
Instead people can donate through their phone directly to the Heart of Florida United Way and select how their money is used.