Crime On The Decline In Downtown Panama City - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Crime On The Decline In Downtown Panama City

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Panama City, Fla. -

Some are considering it a significant breakthrough. Police say crime is on the decline in Downtown Panama City. They say cooperation from businesses - and with area ordinances - have played a major role.

Several programs have been put in place over the past few years, and in 2012 it seems as if they made their mark.

At Hue Salon and Boutique, image is everything. Which is why the image the downtown presents means everything to their small business

"I think people get the wrong idea about downtown," said salon owner Channon Johnston.

When they first arrived here in October of 2011, the picture wasn't a rosy one. With McKenzie Park situated right behind them, they had several issues

"There were some homeless hanging around bathing in the fountains," Johnston said.

"They would hang out in the hallways, walk around, asking for money," stylist Meagan Falasca said.

Now, they say that image flipped in 2012 for the downtown and the more residential downtown north

"A lot has changed, we just don't see them hanging around," Johnston said.

"That's what we strive for, as any police department would." acting chief Scott Ervin said. "To create an environment where people do feel safe, that they do feel comfortable in coming to live work and play."

According to a report Ervin presented to the commission Tuesday evening, Downtown arrests were down 30% in 2012. Calls for service at the Grocery Outlet are down 26%. They were down 13% at the Rescue Mission., and down 20% at McKenzie Park.

"Those are calls for service that the officers aren't having to respond to now, so now they're available for other crime problems," Ervin said.

Ervin says they've been working with the businesses and residents to enforce things like the nuisance ordinance, which was in place to target those who don't report chronic disturbances. As a result, no violations under the ordinance have been reported.

"That was the purpose of that ordinance, to get those owners to be in compliance, be good neighbors," Ervin said.

Their 'Safe Streets' program which places the homeless with family members or gainful employment has successfully assisted 57 people relocate to a support structure.

Those at the salon hope it's enough to refresh downtown's image.

"Our downtown is awesome, and I really wish people would see that and come down here more," Johnston said.