Each spring since 2017 — with a hiatus in 2020 — Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) has been conducting an online Downtown public safety perception survey. Although aimed mainly at Downtown residents, employees, and employers, the survey is open to anyone who wishes to give feedback about their Downtown experience. “We want to hear from anyone who works, lives, visits — anyone who spends any kind of time Downtown,” said Morris Mills, Research and Public Policy Analyst for DLBA.
The results of the 2021 survey are in, and, predictably, they reflect the tumultuous nature of the last year and a half — and also a big jump in the awareness of DLBA’s services.
The survey, typically conducted in April and May, consists of around 20 questions related to perceptions of various aspects of Downtown health and safety, such as crime and street cleanliness. No demographic information is collected; The survey identifies participants solely by their relationship to Downtown. The questions remain similar year after year, to make comparisons and trend-spotting easier.
With work, shopping, and dining severely restricted during much of the past 18 months, Downtown’s challenges stand out. “There was a big decrease in Downtown daily activity due to people working at home, or because of public health restrictions,” said Mills. “Less pedestrian activity on the street has exacerbated a few existing challenges: property crime, littering. illegal dumping, and issues related to homelessness and mental illness. Those have all been heightened and made more visible.”
Although this year’s survey reflected a concern about crime in Downtown, the perception didn’t reflect the reality that overall, Downtown crime rates have been steadily decreasing since 2017.
DLBA’s Clean and Safe Teams were faced with increased street waste and staffing issues, but still received high marks in the survey for remaining present and active; 66 percent of those surveyed said the Teams did a “good job.”
There were other positive survey takeaways for DLBA; Over 80 percent of those surveyed (a 20 percent increase over last year) were aware of DLBA’s services, such as small business grants, pressure washing, Downtown navigation, and removal of graffiti and stickers.
Homeless outreach is an important aspect of DLBA’s work. This year, 64 percent of survey participants were aware of efforts to connect unhoused individuals with service providers — up 15 percent from last year.
“DLBA has been doing lots of extra work, trying to get new information out,” said Mills. “We see in the survey that our increased messaging has heightened awareness, which is great.”
The 2021 Downtown Public Safety Survey results are helping DLBA shape its approach to the continued recovery and revitalization of Downtown Long Beach. “For the next year,” said Mills, “we would like to see a reversal of some things we’ve seen decrease recently, and an increase in the overall perception of feeling comfortable in Downtown at most times of the day.”