Downtown safety ambassadors take heat after First Friday shooting, insist they're 'not equipped'

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock, Tuesday, July 10, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Downtown property owners pay big bucks for an enhanced safety program called CADI. But is it worth the expense? The group was nowhere to be found at the recent First Friday shooting.

Property owners actually signed petitions in favor of the idea five years ago. CADI organizers say the men and women are ambassadors and not police officers.

The fallout from Augusta's First Friday shooting involving 6 people is now hitting the Downtown Development Authority.

"Pointing fingers is not the solution," said Margaret Woodard who is director of the Downtown Development Authority.

Downtown property owners are part of a Business Improvement District. They pay extra taxes for an enhanced safety hospitality program called CADI, or Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative.

But what happens if shots ring out?

"I'm running, too." said Victor Lust who is a CADI safety ambassador with a specific role. "To assist stranded motorist and deter panhandling when people are trying to eat. That type of stuff."

Woodard overseas the CADI program.

"The best way to describe this is they are an extra set of eyes and ears for downtown," said Woodard.

"Were you there during First Friday," we asked Woodard.

"We were there. In fact, we were there an hour after First Friday was supposed to end," said Woodard. "First Friday ends at 9:30pm and our ambassadors were there until 10:30pm."

The shooting happened an hour later.

"We don't have bullet proof vests. We don't carry weapons," said Lust. "We're not equipped to be out here and try and serve and protect at that time of night."

In 2008, the CADI program brought in $350,000 from downtown property owners.

"I think a lot of people think...take the $350,000 and divide by 9 and that's the salary," said Woodard. "No. We have equipment costs. We have fuel costs. We have uniform costs. We have training costs. It is not salaries."

Woodard admits it may be time to expand the ambassador's role.

"Now that we're cleaner," said Woodard. "Maybe it's time to look at what we are going to do next."

The DDA will present their annual report to property owners in the coming weeks. Woodard also plans to send a CADI survey to downtown business owners next week.


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