In a recent meeting, the Cedar Rapids City Council approved the hiring of "downtown ambassadors" to begin work starting in June. It starts as a three-month trial program, that will continue to operate during summers if it works. We've also learned more about their roles.

Recent years have seen an uptick in violence downtown, particularly in the Greene Square, public library and Ground Transportation Center areas. The ambassadors are former homeless residents of Cedar Rapids, hired in conjunction with Willis Dady homeless shelter.

They will not act as undercover police but will aid the Cedar Rapids police in diffusing tensions and reporting suspicious activity when their negotiations don't work. They will also aid those currently homeless in obtaining access to the help and resources they need and literally help clean up downtown, picking up light trash.

Several fights last summer, one which resulted in a death in Greene Square, has given authorities pause to look at more ways to secure the area. The city has already put security cameras in place to watch for incidents in Greene Square, but they hope with this pilot ambassador program, whose tab is being picked up by community organizations, it will return downtown back to a more peaceful neighborhood for residents to enjoy.

[Via CBS2Gazette]