Arcata’s New Community Ambassador Program

Arcata, calif. (KIEM)- Three weeks ago the city of Arcata launched a new program, introducing what they call Community Ambassadors.

Lead Ambassador Fhyre Phoenix says, “We are a friend to everybody and an enemy to no one.”

The project’s main goal is to connect and serve the community. We talked to Sergeant Luke Scown, who oversees community outreach in the city police department as well as the new community ambassador program.

“They are effectively good citizens. We have them out there, just trying to be really good examples of what we would like other people to see,” he said.

We walked around with Phoenix as he picked up trash. One of the many daily activities he takes pride in as a community ambassador.

“We pick up a lot of trash just trying to keep the place neat and clean and just being helpful to everybody. That’s our goal.”

Phoenix explained that the job is more than just walking around picking up trash.

“We talk with the homeless people just to have conversations and see if they have any concerns or needs,” said Phoenix. “Sometimes we can hook them up with social services.”

Ambassadors also talk to business owners and workers to help with any issues they might raise. Lost tourists are also up their alley, giving directions and recommendations to those visiting the area.

Both Phoenix and Sergeant Luke Scown made clear that ambassadors are not police officers, but instead offer a different type of response to situations.

“The idea of an alternative response, I think, is real. Within the first few minutes of them being out, I saw it happen,” said Sergeant Luke Scown.

“We can’t do everything,” Phoenix explained. If a serious situation arises the ambassadors call in to dispatch at the police department. But, Phoenix told us that he has yet to call in for back up or feel threatened while on the job.

“We’ve had a lot of great conversations, have built relationships,” said Phoenix. “People appreciate that we just listen to them.”

Sergeant Luke Scown says the program’s continuance beyond its initial two years is dependent on funding.
“The city, I think, is very supportive of that occurring (the program continuing). If funding is available, yeah, I absolutely see it continuing,” said Sergeant Luke Scown.

In hopes of extending the program’s duration Phoenix has been keeping track of the ambassador’s progress. He even keeps track of who and how many “thank you”s they receive.

“One of the reasons why I’ve been collecting the stats is that we want to show the city manager and the police department and the city council,” he said. “This is what we have accomplished, and this is what we can do yet again for another year or another two years if you’re willing to fund us.”

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