FRAMINGHAM – In July, Courtney Thraen, Executive Director of Downtown Framingham, Inc., continued with what she describes as “two of the most rewarding weeks of [her] public service career.”
She has overseen two business-sponsored detail officers whose goal is to create a more comfortable environment for businesses and citizens.
Many businesses struggle to succeed in downtown Framingham, due to a lot of illegal activity that goes on in the shopping area.
Some customers are scared to go into a store if they know it is located in an area where homeless people tend to hangout.
Chris Mahoney, owner of Re/Max One Call Realty, points out that the liquor stores seem to be the root of all issues and the homebase for a lot of people. The liquor stores make it convenient to get a drink at any time of the day.
Vanda, owner of Vanda Salon, explains the benches that were put in outside of the shops are what attracted so many people to linger outside.
Years ago these benches were parking spots, which made it easy for people to pull right up to a store and go in. Now, the benches make it an easy and accessible place for people without a home to stay.
Vanda said she finds nips or people urinating at these benches and this kind of behavior is what keeps people away from the area.
Gabriel Araujo and Adam Fini work for JS Protective Services in collaboration with New England Security and Protective Services Agency.
Their job is to check in with businesses and see how they’re doing, as well as interact with people outside and build a relationship with them.
If there does happen to be an incident where the police need to get involved, they are the ones who will call it in.
They can also help people to their cars, carry packages, clean the area, and much more. Anything shopkeepers need to feel more comfortable will be happily done by Araujo or Fini.
Thraen refers to them as the engagement team because “they’re filling this really unique middle person role” where they’re not police or case workers, but instead just engaging with everyone in the area and serving as a liaison between business owners and people outside.
Araujo and Fini explain that the progress they have made with everyone is incredible.
On their very first day, people did not open up to them or show much respect.
Then, as people started to get to know them and realize that they have no cruel intentions, they started opening up and discussing issues they have had or just enjoyed some casual conversations.
People were greeting them, hugging them, discussing personal matters, and clearly enjoying their company, when this reporter spent time with them in July.
At first, people disliked them because they thought they were cops, and Fini explains that these people don’t often have good experiences with cops.
He says that the police “have a job to do” and don’t have the time to thoroughly investigate a situation. In the end, “they’re either going to arrest you or they’re not.” It is not their job to talk things out and get to know the person. That is where Gabriel and Adam come in.
At one point, the two of them were able to prevent someone from potentially getting arrested.
Araujo explains that people were “fighting in front of the police and [the police] told Adam” that they would make arrests if they continued fighting. Gabriel and Adam took the people involved in the fight away from the cops and were able to diffuse the situation.
This is just one example of how time and understanding can go a long way and how these two are making a difference.
Thraen said that a lot of the people outside in the summer will find shelters to stay in during the cold winter months, but to have the officers in June, July, and August when most people tend to hang outside “would be a dream come true” for her.
Adam Fini knows it is “not a simple solution” and that businesses will still have some issues once the officers leave, but “most of the results are positive” and he sees that the people outside seem to be cooperating and causing fewer problems.
These business-sponsored details return this week for another two-week period in August.
For now, there is a sense of comfort and understanding in downtown Framingham and a lot of it is thanks to the time that was taken to get to know people and treat them with respect.
Report & photos by SOURCE intern Chad Douty, a UMass Amherst student.