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Downtown Mall Ambassadors Helping Visitors, Keeping Extra Eye on Safety

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

April 29, 2013

The Downtown Ambassadors have been on duty since December but
you'll start noticing them a little more now that they're in official blue uniform.

There are five hired ambassadors who are assigned shifts to walk up and down the mall to help our people visiting Charlottesville.

"Typically, we walk along and if we see a visitor on the downtown mall that looks like they're lost, we'll approach them and ask if we can help them," said Jerry Arbogast, an ambassador and retired park ranger.

They do not have any law enforcement power but another part of having them downtown is to let police know if they see anything questionable.

"They feel that we are an extra set of eyes to look around and make sure nothing inappropriate is going on. If it is, then we can report it and take care of the situation," said ambassador Mohammed Adldoost, retired Charlottesville Police officer.

Whether it's just asking for quick directions or being that extra set of eyes, Charlottesville natives and tourists alike, are glad to have them around.

"I think it's a great idea, you know it's a wonderful place to be it's nice for them and it helps us," said Pat Alechko, who's lived in Charlottesville for more than 30 years.

"I mean obviously you can get your answer from your smart phone, on the map but there's so much information that you don't even know where to start," said Katelyn Thompson, visiting with her mom from Ohio. "So, having that personal perspective is good too, especially if you don't know anyone here, like us."

Adldoost and Arbogast say they had more than 50 people ask for direction after 'Friday's After Five' this past Friday. They say something they want to make sure to work on is knowing every single business on the mall.

As retired police officers and park rangers, they both say they're happy to be reconnecting with the community and serving in a different way.

The ambassador program is just a pilot program for now but City Council has said it's a great way to address two issues: more and more tourists visiting the mall and recent concerns about misbehavior on the mall.

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