Downtown Houston to feature new guides

January 25, 2011 9:50:43 AM PST
Visiting downtown Houston is about to get more personal. The Houston Downtown Management District is starting a program in which guides help people navigate their way through this booming sector of our city. The program has been in the works for about a year and it rolled out Tuesday. There are eight newly-created positions to serve as guides in downtown. Their focus is threefold: deterring crime with their presence, working with the homeless population and acting as an on-the-street concierge to direct visitors on where to go and how to get there.

The guides have gone through more than 60 hours of training, including first aid and crisis management, but they are not police officers. So while they will assist officers on the street, in the event of a disturbance they will alert Houston police

"I want to make it very clear that the gentlemen who are here are not peace officers; that is why we're very closely coordinated with our police forces," said Bob Eury of the Houston Downtown Management District. "It's more of an assist, more of extra eyes and ears."

The guides will carry handheld smart phone devices that also work as a two-way radio to report problems or help tourists.

They will work in teams of two and will work seven days a week during business hours.

The program has been funded for the next five years, but the hope is that it will eventually become permanent.