NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Thousands of people walked through North Little Rock’s Argenta neighborhood Friday night. Two of them have the task of making sure the rest have a good time.
They are Argenta’s public safety ambassadors, and their job is to make sure that visitors have a good time. It may sound like a simple idea, but it is also uncommon. One that plays an important role in the growth of North Little Rock’s nightlife destination.
“Throughout the evening, I just talk to various people,” Sprigs Edmonds, Jr. said. “I take them to their cars, or I might help you take something out of your car. Depends on what’s needed.”
“A lot of escorting of our elderly people, women and kids, out of the dark,” added Buford Johnson. “Because sometimes they have to park in some of the parking lots back here, and they’re not well-lit in some areas.”
Friday was a busy night in Argenta, with the Argenta Craft Beer Festival on one end of the neighborhood and a concert at Verizon Arena on the other, in addition to all the people going for dinner or to see a comedy show. Edmonds and Johnson helped drivers find parking spots, and gave out restaurant recommendations for people who were new to the area. They also said hello to friends and regular visitors.
“We want people to come back,” Edmonds mentioned. “We want people to feel safe when they come down here. When you know people by name, they feel like, you know, that you know them, and they can approach you, you can approach them.”
Johnson became Argenta’s first public safety ambassador in 2007, and Edmonds was hired in 2013. They work for the Argenta Downtown Council, which represents businesses along Main Street between Broadway and 7th. Edmonds and Johnson walk along Main Street six nights a week, taking away people’s worries.
“They’re tired of the frustration,” Johnson described, “and when they come down they want to have a sense of peace. They want to feel welcome, and appreciated, and that’s what we try to offer down here.”
Both of them have backgrounds in law enforcement, so they are capable of preventing fights, directing traffic, or helping someone get a safe ride home after having too much to drink.
“We want to encourage them to come back down here,” Johnson stated. “Most people aren’t gonna come down here if they don’t feel safe, and we want to create a safe environment.”
And with all the festivals Argenta hosts, and all the bars and restaurants that have opened in the last few years, people have more reasons to keep coming back. Edmonds and Johnson get to claim a small part of the neighborhood’s success.
“You’re a part of something,” Edmonds said, describing some of the satisfaction he feels from his work. “You know, the Argenta movement, you become a part of that, and it becomes a part of you. And I enjoy my job. I like what I do.”
“You know, our job is so minute,” Johnson added. “We’re just here to be a good representation of the organization we work for, to make people just be friendly.”
The idea could spread soon. The head of the Argenta Downtown Council, Donna Hardcastle, said she will hold a meeting soon with leaders of the neighborhood association for South Main Street about how to develop a public safety ambassador program there.