There were so many clashes between lingering adults and roving teens on the sidewalk near Third and Main Streets in downtown Dayton the location became known as the “corner of chaos.”
That was 15 years ago, and while the corner still tops the list for the Dayton location with the most police complaints since then, both police and business owners say the situation is much improved.
“Downtown is safer than a lot of suburbs I’ve seen,” said Dayton native Jasmine Brown, who co-owns the De’Lish Cafe two blocks north of what was once known as the corner of chaos. “We really need to keep doing what we’re doing because whatever we’re doing it’s working.”
An I-Team review of police reports from 2000 through 2014 showed there were 2,654 calls to the area, or about one every other day. But the numbers are a little misleading because half of all crimes associated with the location during that time period were for trespassing.
Frank Ecklar, RTA Director of Planning and Marketing, said the agency had safety in mind with the building of Wright Stop Plaza, which serves as the central station in the bus system’s network. For starters, the bus hub is on private property, which helps explain the number of trespassing complaints.
“We were able as an agency to take control, so to speak, of this area and be able to monitor it through a variety of different techniques,” Ecklar said. Security cameras cover every inch of the hub area where people are getting on and off buses, plus the interior of the Wright Stop Plaza building.
The RTA also employs people who work in the hub as well, known as ambassadors, who provide customer service and another level of security. People who misbehave or linger too long and refuse to leave can be cited for trespassing. Cameras continue to watch bus patrons as they enter and leave the area.
“Security is an ever-evolving thing,” Ecklar said. “Technology advances are there and we will continue to stay ahead of the curve utilizing technology as well.”
Records obtained from the RTA show 85 disorderly conduct incidents were reported there in 2014 and 53 so far in 2015. Bus rider Alicia Cummings of Dayton said security has improved from what it was years ago, but people still need to be vigilant. “Everybody should be careful and watch their surroundings,” Cummings said.
Dayton Police Maj. David Wolford said the turnaround at Third and Main came after an unprecedented amount of cooperation between the police department, Dayton school system and RTA. He said most of the problems were being caused by a small group and that most people there are just trying to catch a bus and make their way through downtown.
Once the hub was moved to private property and adjustments were made in the school transportation routes, the majority of the security problems were fixed, Wolford said.
Denise Swick, a Realtor who has spent many years working on downtown housing and witnessed its recent growth, says people feel safer downtown and that’s reflected in the increased population there.
The Dayton Downtown Partnership estimates more than 2,000 people live downtown, with more on the way as new developments build out.
Among the largest soon to enter the pipeline is the old KeyBank Building, known lately as the Paru Tower at 32-34 North Main St., just a block from the RTA hub. The city of Dayton intends on buying the building with hopes of a developer turning it into condos or apartments.
The prospect of having such a large housing development so close to the former “corner of chaos” indicates to Swick how important it is to maintain security as a top priority.
“If you take the eye off the ball, stop investing in those programs, that can go away just as quickly as it came back,” she said.
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