Camp Bowie District beefs up security patrols
By Scott Nishimura
Photography by Olaf Growald
Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie District, which manages the Westside public improvement district that stretches from Montgomery Street through Ridglea, is beefing up security patrols to address issues such as vagrancy.
On June 1, the district began piloting six-hour patrols on Tuesdays and Thursdays by Texas Industrial Security Inc., or T.I.S. The Fort Worth firm also provides extra security along the city’s East Lancaster Avenue public improvement district corridor and works closely with the Fort Worth Police Department.
The district’s board has voted to double the patrols to four days per week beginning Oct. 1, when its budget for the new fiscal year takes effect, Lydia Guajardo Rickard, Camp Bowie District executive director, said in an interview. The Fort Worth City Council was scheduled to vote on the budget Sept. 12.
“Because we are using (public improvement district) dollars, our budget is so limited,” Rickard said. “T.I.S. has a proven track record of fostering relationships with the Fort Worth PD. We’re using that to say, ‘how do we supplement the police?’”
The patrols generally start in the early morning, end in the early afternoon and focus on Ridglea. Most of the incidences of vagrancy on private property occur between Interstate 30 and Hilldale Road, Rickard said.
“There’s more opportunity, more panhandling opportunity,” Rickard said. “This loitering and soliciting that people are seeing, it doesn’t make sense to do it on a vacant lot.”
The street has seen “an increase since COVID in homelessness and vagrancy” and “some property crime,” Rickard said.
The district and T.I.S. have visited businesses in the corridor to let them know about the increased security and to survey them on problems. One such space where vagrants are known to linger is the loading dock behind a large, vacant retail space next to the Tom Thumb grocery store in Ridglea.
T.I.S. officers, who drive marked cars, encourage vagrants they encounter on private property to move along. If necessary, security officers also contact the police for help, Rickard said. Generally, vagrants move on without police involvement, she said.
During the pilot, “the first six weeks were really just figuring it out,” Rickard said. “Where were our hot spots and what are the time frames. Just a firmer understanding of where we are.”
Making the issue more complex: “Everybody who’s on the street is not homeless,” she said. “That is an education process to our retailers, our property owners and our consumers. Then we know how to deal with it better.”
The 2023-24 fiscal year budget contains $50,000 for the security patrols, Rickard said.
But the district is cautioning merchants and other businesses that the security patrols won’t be able to solve every issue, Rickard said. “They can’t be everywhere.”