More than a month after pressure intensified to increase safety in Fort Worth’s West 7th district, bar owners and city leaders are getting a better idea of when new safety measures could roll out.
Business owners on West 7th Street renewed calls for better safety in the area after TCU student Wes Smith was gunned down nearby in September.
On September 12th, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker released six safety improvement ideas for the area.
Tuesday, city staff met with members of the West 7th Restaurant, Bar and Retail Association to provide updates and discuss timelines.
“I think it’s good, I think the mayor has her head on a swivel with this one, she’s been moving forward, 7;33; there’s been a lot of communication,” said Emil Bragdon with the association.
Bragdon is also president of Funky Lime Hospitality Concepts, Inc., and owns five businesses plus property in the West 7th Street Entertainment District.
Here are the six safety measures and where they stand:
Installing high-intensity streetlights at “key locations” determined by the Fort Worth Police Department
Parker said temporary lights have been installed but they’re working on a better plan.
“We’d like to do better lighting infrastructure throughout the district but carefully plan that, as well,” Parker said.
Bragdon said he’s noticed more lighting but that the association plans to take this into it’s own hands by coming up with a lighting map as soon as this weekend.
“Whatever areas do not have a lot of lighting, we’re going to address it with the business owners, themselves,” he said.
Creating a bar safety certification program
This would be a voluntary safety training for bar owners, managers, and employees.
“To make sure that their employees are better certified and knowledgeable about how to prevent incidents at their establishments and… be better partners with Fort Worth PD, as well,” Parker explained.
Parker’s office said the program would operate as a joint effort between the city, police, and bar owners and business associations.
A spokesperson for the mayor, Bethany Warner, said city staff has requested proposals from two firms that specialize in bar and restaurant safety training programs.
Bragdon said they plan to roll out the plan to their members at their next meeting next month, and help the city decide which firm to choose.
Increase the number of off-duty police officers on-site at bars during peak hours
Parker’s office said this would include screening customers with hand-wands for guns as they arrive, especially in larger businesses.
Warner said they’ve discussed this measure with entertainment district business leaders, who have largely agreed to do this voluntarily.
“Our bar owners should be commended; they’ve been great partners to create additional off-duty officers in the area,” Parker said.
Increase the number of scheduled inspections by Fire and Code Compliance Departments of businesses.
Warner said this is in process with fire and code staff.
Create a West Seventh Ambassadors Program
This would be similar the Downtown Ambassador Program, where ambassadors act as safety escorts for people and patrol by foot or bicycle.
The mayor’s office said it would use Crime Control & Prevention District (CCPD) funds for this, and consider using a proposed West Seventh Public Improvement District (PID) to fund the program in future years.
They hope to get an interim program off the ground in the new year.
Warner said city staff is working with West Seventh property owners to create the PID, “which could be established as early as spring of 2024.” She said staff plans to discuss using CCPD funds to get the program started at the November CCPD meeting.
“As a property owner, nobody wants to pay more taxes. But to me, it’s more than that, it’s, may be… a little bit of an insurance policy program for property owners,” Bragdon said.
Warner added that CCPD will be asked to consider funding three items in November: “a portion of the cost for the entertainment district study, the pilot ambassadors program, and installation of retractable bollards to more effectively block traffic from certain streets rather than using police vehicles and officers, which frees those officers and vehicles to focus on police work.”
Bragdon said Fort Worth Police are highly supportive of the program.
“They believe in it and if they believe in it, we support it. Whatever makes their job more capable, we are on the same page with them,” he said.
Consider changes to physical layout and environment
Parker’s office said the city is working to hire a nationally reputable firm that can help figure out crime prevention through environmental design.
The idea is to analyze the environment in Fort Worth’s entertainment districts and make recommendations to improve security. The mayor’s office said they hope to align with best practices in other entertainment districts across the country.
Warner said city staff is working with two firms on this. She said a task force made up of city staff, community representatives, and entertainment district property owners will take these firms on tours of each of the City’s four entertainment districts and conduct interviews with each firm on December 6th and 7th. Warner said then, the selection is expected to be brought to the city council for a vote in January. She said there will then be a roughly 9-month study for action items.
“As business owners, we care a lot about the area, and to have someone else reciprocate that is really great to see,” Bragdon said.