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Beefed Up Security At Market Creek Plaza Cuts Down Crime

Evening Edition

Above: A few weeks ago, we told you about a crime problem near Market Creek Plaza in Southeast San Diego. One of the issues was that the plaza's security guards weren't doing enough to combat people loitering and dealing drugs in front of Starbucks and Food 4 Less. Now, security has been beefed up at the plaza, with big results. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser has more.

Aired 8/1/13 on KPBS News.

Security has been beefed up at Market Creek Plaza in Southeast San Diego, with big results.

Community organizer Barry Pollard sits in front of the Starbucks at Market Creek Plaza and looks around. Children are playing and people are chatting and sipping coffee.

He says the scene wasn't so quiet just a few weeks ago. Residents told KPBS then that the shopping center in Southeast San Diego creates foot traffic, which attracts drug dealers. One of the issues was that the plaza's security guards weren't doing enough to combat people loitering and dealing drugs in front of Starbucks and Food 4 Less, they said.

Now, the nonprofit Jacobs Center, which runs the plaza, has added security guards.

Community organizer Barry Pollard at the Starbucks in Market Creek Plaza.

"It has been different as night and day," Pollard said. "The adjustments that they made were very, very obvious. It had an immediate impact. You could just look at the Starbucks now and more customers are here, there's no loud, loud music in the parking lots and there are actually people that are cleaning up the parking lot."

Renee Novo, a spokeswoman for the Jacobs Center, said the center has boosted its number of on-call security guards to patrol the plaza by bringing in staff from a private security firm.

"While maintaining a safe neighborhood is a community issue, the Jacobs Center is committed to ensuring the plaza is a welcoming place to shop and enjoy," she said.

Patrolling the plaza now are pairs of security guards, one dressed in a maroon shirt who works for the Jacobs Center, and one in bright yellow from the private firm. Pollard said he likes the fusion of old and new guards.

"So it's not a matter of displacing anyone at this point," he said. "It's just a matter of maybe more training and certainly more visibility."

A man helps clean up the parking lot in Market Creek Plaza.

The trolley station next to the plaza could also attract crime by giving people an easy way in and out, so the Jacobs Center is working with the Metropolitan Transit System to ensure its security is also getting the job done.

But more security in the plaza could push criminals into the surrounding neighborhoods, Pollard said. And that's where his neighborhood watch group comes in. He's working on what he calls the Urban Collaboration Project, which would expand his small watch group to more neighborhoods.

"We're organizing the different neighborhoods around Market Creek Plaza, because the folks that used to be here, they're going to have to go somewhere else, and it's going to be in the outlying communities," he said.

Pollard hopes that by working with the police and Market Creek, his neighborhood can be safe once and for all.

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