Businesses Seeing A Better Downtown - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Businesses Seeing A Better Downtown

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Panama City, Fla. -

The issues with Downtown vagrancy and loitering have been well documented over the past few years. City leaders, law enforcement, and business owners have banded together to address the issue, and they say it seems the area is turning a corner.

For Thomas Pickels with Leitz Music, the tune has changed.

"It's been a lot better," Pickels said. "I think people are starting to buckle down and saying hey...we really need to get some guys out there."

As for Sadie Parmer, owner of Mille's restaurant, things seems to have a different flavor.

"A completely different, clean, pleasant, family oriented downtown," Parmer said.

Both say the atmosphere is an about-face from even a year ago.They agree a large part of the change can be attributed to Sergeant Chris Edmunson and the PCPD's CRA downtown patrol.

"We've seen a sharp reduction in intoxicated individuals - panhandling, soliciting, open containers, those type of offenses," Sgt. Edmundson said.

Sergeant Edmunson says between January 2011 (when the downtown unit became active) and September 2011, they saw 365 downtown arrests. Between December 2011 and August 2012, the had only 243 arrests.

"Our arrests for our unit are down 36 percent for the downtown area over the past year, so those are positive numbers for us to see," Sgt. Edmundson.

Sgt. Edmunson says several factors play into that. Strict education and enforcement of city ordinances have helped with the issues. Programs like 'Safe Streets' help vagrants relocate vagrants to better situations.

In addition, the sergeant says cooperation with both the Rescue Mission and Downtown businesses have created a better atmosphere.

"We have to keep that communication with the business owners open, they are our eyes and ears for downtown," Sgt. Edmundson said.

"They've really involved us in it as well, trying to get us to call them if there are any problems," Parmer said.

Businesses hope the harmony is here to stay.