Monday, March 05, 2007

On The Importance of Personal Security in Urban Areas

On NPR's Marketplace program today, there was a great segment about the upcoming closure of Minneapolis' downtown Borders. The commentary came from a (former) staff member of the store. According to her, the store was plagued with security problems:

As soon Block E Borders opened, it was infested. Homeless men slept and urinated in the chairs. Gangs listened to rap on headphones, often singing the obscene lyrics out loud. Prostitutes and drug dealers did business in our restrooms. Theft was rampant.

Despite her (and other staffers) pleas to management to hire some security staff, the chief muck-a-mucks of Borders apparently decided it wasn't worth it. Unsurprisingly, sales at the store have declined to the point at which it's not worth it to stay open. Border's PR claims that foot traffic is too slow at that location. Too slow!? Of course it's too slow--who would want to come in to a store with problems like these?

Despite efforts to transform city centers into pleasure palaces of luxury housing and upscale retail, the fact remains that cities (and often their downtowns) house a much more diverse population than traditional suburbs. Believe it or not, that "diverse" population includes people you don't want in your store. And, I should add, the long tradition of quality social and support services in cities make them great places for poor people and criminals to live. Legitimate businesses need to take an active hand in combating these problems. Hiring a security guard is a well-known and effective tool to handle these problems. It's a no-brainer--I can't understand why Borders did not give it a shot (!).


Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

Interesting. I had not heard of the Borders closing in downtown Minneapolis. St. Paul has a Borders in a similar area (referring to the diverse population which includes some of the problems you mentioned) that does not have a security guard. However, the homeless, gangs, prostitutes, etc., do not hang out there. There is a different climate regarding local crime in St. Paul I think the residents tend to be more militant against crime and less tolerant. Possibly that's because St. Paulites live where they work? Minneapolis does not have the high residential population in their shopping areas that St. Paul does.

12:01 AM  

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