Block by Block’s Regional Vice President David Aguilar explained the role of the security ambassadors his company provides to the city of West Hollywood at Council’s meeting Monday night, and answered some questions in the wake of several incidents which left residents wondering about their purpose. Here are highlights from his presentation.
Security Ambassadors’ roles
- The primary role of security ambassadors in West Hollywood is to provide an unarmed, visible presence to act as a deterrent to unwanted behavior.
- Deescalation and Support: Ambassadors are trained to diffuse and deescalate nonviolent, low-level quality of life issues and offer support for nonviolent or non-emergency calls for service.
- Collaboration: Security ambassadors work in collaboration with the Human Services Department, outreach service providers for undocumented community members, the City of West Hollywood’s code compliance, LA County Fire, and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department.
- Visual Deterrent: In addition to addressing nonviolent crimes, ambassadors serve as a visual deterrent to potential criminal activity.
- Hospitality Services: Ambassadors provide hospitality services, including safety escorts within city limits for anyone who feels unsafe walking to or from their destinations.
- Local Business Check-Ins: Ambassadors make regular pit stops at local businesses to check on them, answer questions, and address concerns.
- Information Resource: Ambassadors act as a source of information, providing parking information, dining recommendations, business referrals, general directions, and information about upcoming city meetings or events.
- Traffic Control: Ambassadors assist with traffic control-related issues, including contacting emergency services in the event of a traffic collision and helping with basic information exchange.
- Vehicle Assistance: Ambassadors can help with jump-starting vehicles and changing tires if the necessary tools are available.
- Collaboration with Neighborhood Watch: The management team attends Neighborhood Watch meetings and works closely with neighborhood block captains, community safety leaders, and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department to address low-level nonviolent issues.
On ‘de-escalating’ problems
“All we can do is request compliance. We’re not law enforcement officers. We’re security guards. We have the same abilities that everyone else does out there. However, our staff is trained to recognize certain behaviors, to try to verbally communicate with individuals. We can recognize certain behaviors and we can contact the sheriff’s department. They gather collect information, pertinent information such as descriptions of individuals. In the event there’s a physical altercation that results in serious bodily injury and somebody flees in a vehicle, they’re collecting vehicle information, last known direction of travel. So, there’s a few different things that we can provide or assist with. Again, we put our ambassadors through real-life safety scenario trainings, things that we’ve experienced out here in the field. We act those out, we roleplay those scenarios. We pretend to be aggressive individuals shouting, yelling, folks dealing with mental health crisis issues. Again, all we can do is communicate verbally. That’s all we can do. In the event of serious bodily harm, that does come down to a judgment call on the ambassador’s part. It’s not something we encourage simply for the risk of injury to our ambassadors as well, but if they feel the need to intervene, they can.”
Recent success stories
In December 2022, a security ambassador observed an individual with a firearm, reported the observations to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, and followed the individual from a safe distance long enough to direct deputies to the suspect’s location. He was found to be carrying a loaded magazine and handgun when deputies detained him.
In two separate incidents — one in December and the other in March —, ambassadors successfully administered Narcan to an individual suffering from a potential overdose. This allowed the individuals to become responsive long enough to allow EMS to render aid.
In March 2023, an ambassador assigned to a fixed position in City Hall fixed observed an individual brandishing what appeared to be a firearm outside the entrance. The ambassadors assisted with the evacuation of the first floor at City Hall until the Sheriff’s deputies arrived and cleared the area.
Increase in Cost per Service:
The cost per service has increased compared to the past three years, indicating potential budgetary implications for the program.
Increase in Hospitality Services:
The ambassadors have seen an increase in their hospitality services, which could indicate a higher demand for assistance and support from community members.
Increase in Interactions with Unhoused Community Members:
The team has experienced an increase in their interactions with unhoused community members, highlighting the importance of their role in addressing the needs of this vulnerable population.
Increase in Safety Escorts:
The number of safety escorts provided by the ambassadors has increased, suggesting a growing concern for community safety and the need for additional support in this area.
Decline in Business Contacts:
The focus on residential patrols and fixed posts has led to a decline in business contacts, potentially indicating a shift in priorities and resource allocation.
East Side Residential Calls for Service:
The east side of the city has reported the highest areas of calls for service, as well as a higher number of interactions with unhoused community residents compared to the west side.
West Side Hospitality Assistance:
The west side of the city has seen significantly higher levels of hospitality assistance provided by the ambassadors compared to the east side and the center city.
Response Time for Sheriff Calls:
Since the residential program’s inception, there have been 64 calls for service by ambassadors to the West Hollywood Sheriff station. The average response time for these calls is 12 minutes and 23 seconds.
The program has consistently maintained staffing levels at 100% for the residential expansion, kiosk locations, city hall, parks, and pickup trolleys on weekends. Staffing levels for patrols on Melrose, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Sunset have been maintained at 90%.
Turnover and Staff Tenure:
The program has experienced some turnover, primarily due to performance-related issues, accountability, and competitive wages. Currently, 19% of staff members have been with the program for more than two years, while 53% have been with the program for less than a year.
Ambassadors are required to complete various training modules upon hire. They receive bi-weekly and monthly safety training topics, with additional training assigned as needed. Notable training topics include active shooter training, first aid administration, cultural diversity and sensitivity, sexual harassment, mental health first aid, incident report writing, emergency preparedness, and safety scenario training.
“Security Ambassadors’ roles” equals a colossal waste of taxpayer money. They do not have the power to arrest and do not have the legal power to even detain citizens. So that means they are simply a waste of money. The owner of the organization is scalping the city. Just hire some more LASD and keep the citizens of West Hollywood safe. Obviously, diversity training should be ongoing. IS the crime being committed by West Hollywood Residents, or are outsiders picking West Hollywood as an easy target? If necessary Sheriff’s on bicycles, and when walking, do not walk in groups of… Read more »
As of today, Mayor Karen Bass has requested in her budget “400 MORE POLICE OFFICERS FOR LA”. Take that lame West Hollywood City Council!!! You all are playing gotcha over adding minimal LA Sheriff Deputies. Wake up, your positions were presumably to be filled by adults not aspirational juvenile politicos.
Honestly, does anyone who thought the idea to “defund the police” had any semblance of logic, reason, or intelligence attached to it?
The incredible stupidity.
Why not save some money and just have Boy Scouts volunteer to help little old ladies across the street and call the police if they see something going on. Kids love using walkie-talkies so they would definitely call in whatever they see. And Boy Scouts are usually very well groomed.
The Boy Scouts possess much more ability and decorum than these quasi ambassador/quasi criminal types that have been tasked with pretending to handle serious public safety responsibilities. Neither John Erickson or Sepi Shyne appear to have been exposed to or involved with Boy Scots or Girl Scouts or any other source teaching decorum or discipline in their early lives. They have festered away and taken up the mantle of victims whom seem perpetually aggrieved and simultaneously savior figures. Since this is Mental Health Month in WeHo, they have a sworn implied responsibility to behave with integrity and ability or to… Read more »
So 80% of the staff has less than two years experience; which means they only have a 20% retention rate for their employees. It is rather apparent that the $19 an hour is not attracting people who might actually be interested in the job. The error City Council made was when the voted to just pick a random number of 30 BBB to justify cutting Sheriff’s deputies. Obviously BBB has been very challenged to met this number with people who seem serious about the job. So the Council need to get real and review this contract and figure out how… Read more »
Regardless of the positive experiences you speak of whatever specifics they may be, the bottom line is that these individuals don’t qualify for the job description and the job description doesn’t match the requirements of a realistic public safety standard. A rational person of sound mind can make a value judgement on that basis. The Shyne, Byers and Erickson trio don’t represent emblematic values and qualifications as evident during the discussion at CC on Monday. All three bluffed their way through an election which qualifies them as bluffers, poseurs, ethically challenged and downright untruthful as also evidenced on Monday evening.… Read more »
In some places, “Security Guards” carry weapons and stop and detain shoplifters.
Just giving them the power to take police reports and issue citations for quality of life violations, e.g. scooters on sidewalks, noise complaints, trespassing, etc would be a huge help. We obviously pay a private contractor to issue parking tickets so there’s precedent.
A useless waste of money that could be spent strengthening the Sheriff’s Dept.
There is “no business like no business”, once seen on a business card. This service is actually a disservice to the ambassadors and the community. It is similar to children playing cops and robbers. The City Council should have more foresight and dedicate themselves to serious intentions and solutions. This charade does not need to be prolonged to the detriment of the community.
NOTHING HERE to convince me that this “program” & extravagant waste of the city’s money, is serving anyone in a significant & productive way. Just rhetoric. Seeing some of these folks gathered in a group chat or totally engrossed in texting, makes me react with a combination of humor, incredulity & annoyance. These good folks are a huge expense for the city that provides no return & this “program” is a useless product of incompetent members of this City Council
We shouldn’t have non-law enforcement at the expense of law enforcement.
It would be very helpful if the ambassadors would check in on street sleeper James who is always by Emser Tile on N. Olive who has very loud conversations with an invisible person often in the middle of the night but every morning after dawn. He can easily be heard from several blocks away. Be prepared for him to show you his penis because that is the way he distracts from being accused of misbehavior and he will inform that he was once a porn actor.
Why don’t you call your law enforcement friends if he is exposing himself to people.
For the record, I have included that piece of information to deputies when i have complained about his early morning disturbance, but this is not what you were looking for in your snarky comment.
You must be lots of fun at parties.