In 2013, the Newark Downtown District (NDD), New Jersey’s largest Special Improvement District (SID), expanded its boundaries from Central Avenue to I-280 on the north, and from Branford Place to Franklin Avenue to the south. Stakeholders within those areas now receive the same clean and safe services provided by the 40-plus ambassadors employed by the NDD.
Commonly called “bumblebees” because of their yellow and black uniforms, NDD ambassadors now pass every street, armed with a broom, bucket and an iPad. They remove debris, stickers, and ensure quality of life remains high by reporting incidents ranging from loitering to illegal dumping to graffiti. Yet, a clean sidewalk was not the only result of this expansion.
While the crime rate in Newark has reached historic lows in recent years, within the new expansion areas, overall crime in the area fell by 15.3 percent while the rest of the city saw a decrease of 4.8 percent. Non-violent crimes experienced an even more drastic reduction: 34.6 percent in expansion areas compared to 9.4 percent throughout Newark.
This downward trend parallels national patterns of crime within SIDs. Professor John MacDonald of the University of Pennsylvania attributed higher reductions in violent crimes within SID areas in Los Angeles to the presence of the SIDs themselves. Similarly, professor Lorelene Hoyt of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found comparable results examining property crimes in Philadelphia.
Special Improvement Districts, or SIDs, are non-profit organizations established through municipal ordinances to act as caretakers of public space within their boundaries. While their roles vary by city, size and budget, each strives to make their district clean, safe and livable.
By establishing a visible caretaker of a community, SID workers provide more eyes and ears on the street, and because of this increased perception of guardianship, levels of crime tend to fall. On top of that, SIDs sponsor programs and campaigns designed to promote public safety, and work with local businesses to improve coordination on crime prevention strategies. Additionally, SIDs work hard to promote economic development, tourism, and an endless variety of activities to bring people and new businesses to the downtown area. This increases the overall amount of private security, bolstering the impact of local police and adding even more eyes and ears in the community.