Downtown Ambassadors coming to Rapid City to help tourists and police

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RAPID CITY S.D. (KEVN) - Expect some new faces to walk around downtown Rapid City this summer to guide tourists.

Five people wearing bright red shirts and carrying maps will be in downtown Rapid City this summer to provide directions and answer tourists' questions. They will be called the Downtown Ambassadors.
But the ambassadors will also have another job, reporting to the police of any problems.

"If I am just a visitor to Rapid City area or I am a business person who is just trying to get to work I don't want to stop and take the extra time to call the police and have somebody deal with whatever is occurring. It will be these people's job to notify us that things are going on," Rapid City Police Department Lt. Cathy Bock said.

Destination Rapid City CEO Dan Senftner said the idea was in the works for about three years. The idea is modeled after similar programs in cities like Denver and Atlanta.

Alternative Fuel Coffee House Owner Patti Griffin said she likes the idea, especially if they can help limit panhandling in the area. But, she also does not want the ambassador to abuse their authority.

"I just hope that they don't take it to a different level because they are not police officers. They are citizens like you and I," Griffin said.

If a situation gets out of hand, the ambassadors are trained to call police officers immediately. Instead, ambassadors will direct panhandlers to resources based on their needs.

"That's why the police department is getting involved with the training as to how to work with this as how to help the panhandling issue. It's almost like a neighborhood watch program. Downtown is our neighborhood," Destination Rapid City President and CEO Dan Senftner said.

The ambassadors will cover the downtown area all the way to the post office on East Boulevard. They will start on June 2nd and will stay through September.