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United Way of Lancaster County


SoWe provides security guard at Culliton Park

David Martinez of Invictus Security Group keeps an eye on things during the “Peace in Our Streets” block party at Culliton Park on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

The SoWe neighborhood group has arranged for a security guard at Culliton Park this summer and fall, piloting an idea that could eventually be expanded to other city parks and public spaces.

“It seemed like something worth trying,” said Amos Stoltzfus, SoWe’s director.

The initiative began at the end of May. Through the end of September, a staff member from Lancaster County-based Invictus Security Group will patrol the park five days a week: Noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The intent is to provide a “presence” to maintain order, Stoltzfus said: someone to advise patrons of the park’s rules as needed and deter infractions. The individual does not carry a firearm.

SoWe shared its plans with City Hall beforehand, and the city is interested in seeing how it goes, Public Works Director Stephen Campbell.

Campbell’s team has been putting together a citywide master plan for parks and open spaces. One of the proposals for improving security is a park ranger program: SoWe’s pilot will help the city determine what the needs are and what such a program might look like, Campbell said.

Public Works hopes to have the master plan ready in mid- to late summer, he said.

SoWe is a project of the nonprofit Tenfold. The contract with Invictus Security is for $26,000, Stoltzfus said.

In an email, Invictus’ vice president and spokesman Robert Benson said the company is thrilled to support SoWe, Tenfold and the city through the pilot.

“We look forward to meeting and working with the residents of the SoWe community to help them achieve the set goals for their neighborhood. … Providing a clean and safe outdoor space for our families and children to enjoy is always a benefit to the community,” he said.

The Culliton Park initiative has a local precedent: Since last fall, the Downtown Investment District has been contracting with Schaad Detective Agency to provide nighttime security patrols in Binns Park and Ewell Plaza, both of which are city-owned public squares.

That came after complaints by surrounding businesses and property owners about drug dealing, threats and other problematic behavior by people who congregate in and around the park.

Stoltzfus cited similar concerns in Culliton Park, such as drug dealing and aggressive behavior. The park is home to around a dozen people who sleep there, a number that has increased over the spring, but they’re not the concern, he said — it’s other individuals who are entering the park and behaving badly.

In Binns Park, too, researchers and outreach workers have said the majority of problems are caused not by people who sleep there, but by outsiders who mix with them.

Dave Aichele is executive director of the Downtown Investment District, which is housed at the Lancaster City Alliance. Schaad’s security patrols have been well received, he said; the DID continued them after its initial 90-day trial period and recently signed a contract maintaining them through its current fiscal year, into April 2025. He declined to disclose the contract amount.

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Wednesday, June 12, to add comment from Invictus Security Group.)