Who You Gonna Call? Dispatch Services!
A Look at Block by Block Managed Dispatch Service Programs for Hollywood Partnership and Union Square
Block by Block is known for delivering exceptional service in public spaces, but our operations go far beyond what is seen at the street level. We operate sophisticated, multifaceted programs that support our teams, customers and their stakeholders in the field. With the addition of dispatch services, we can elevate our service level capacity for our customers.
While most Block by Block Ambassador Programs across the country respond to calls and requests for services, we are seeing an increased need for formalized dispatch services for the districts we serve. Urban place management organizations (UPMO) have brought dispatch services to the community level to fill gaps in services provided by city resources.
District-led dispatch services operate much like traditional emergency response — answering calls, dispatching teams, monitoring surveillance and providing an added layer of support for the community. They also lend to the customer service experience by doubling as call-in concierge services for business, residents and visitors alike. Our teams are equipped to handle requests for service ranging from cleanups to intercepting individuals causing disruptions in the public space.
Dispatch services also have a positive impact on businesses and stakeholders in a community. Public Safety escorts create a better employee experience in today’s tough job market, immediate response to calls means the frustrations of street level incidents are easier to manage (aiding employee retention) and the reports generated by this work can be directly tied back to the specific properties, enabling UPMOs to show the value of the work and identify areas where resources could be more effectively deployed.
For many UPMOs across the country, bringing services like cleaning, public safety and dispatch in-house has allowed districts to create better outcomes for their community by supplementing amenities currently provided by the city. By utilizing in-house Dispatch Services, district users can expect quicker response times while preventing unnecessary calls to the police department.
In January of 2023, The Hollywood Partnership (HP) in Los Angeles unveiled its new Community Dispatch Center which aimed to streamline cleaning, safety and hospitality efforts across the district. It operates around-the-clock with about 90 Safety Ambassadors, Cleaning Ambassadors and Dispatch Members working at any given time. General Manager Sergio Andrades says the community is “like Vegas—never stopping, never sleeping.”
In their first six months, HP Dispatch received over 9,400 calls for service, including requests for welfare checks, cleanups, safety escorts and more (Hollywood Partnership Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update). Sergio said most of the calls that come through in the evening are for safety escorts and requests to intervene with members of the street population.
In many communities across the country, if a member of the street population is causing a disturbance, the police are called. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, they receive 140,000 calls related to homelessness each year. This occupies police time, can escalate the situation unnecessarily and upset the unhoused individual further.
Because our Ambassadors spend considerable time in their districts, they are known to many members of the community — including the unhoused. When responding to non-emergency calls, Ambassadors can use their established relationships and de-escalation training to handle matters with care and compassion. The Dispatch Center can also help connect individuals with the proper social service agency while monitoring the situation as it unfolds at the street level.
Working with UPMOs, Block by Block has found implementing operations focused on community-based resources for the unhoused and increased safety initiatives, like dispatch centers, is working to enhance perceptions of public safety for our customers all while improving quality of life for the community at large.
“I wanted to commend you on all the work you all put in everyday to make Hollywood Boulevard a better place.” Hollywood resident Sydney Koepke shared via email. “[Before the Ambassadors], it felt super unsafe and dirty. I see a huge difference every day…in how Hollywood is being turned around. I really appreciate you all for continuing to help Hollywood become a safer, cleaner place for all of us.”
Synergy of Services
Block by Block launched hospitality services for HP in 2019 with a team of just 14 Ambassadors. By early 2023, Block by Block expanded services to include cleaning, safety and dispatch, growing the program to 90 employees. The client, already familiar with Block by Block, knew working with one company who can fulfill a variety of service needs effectively is easier than consulting with multiple companies to complete tasks that often overlap.
We’ve seen a similar transition for the Union Square Alliance in San Francisco. Block by Block has provided Ambassador Services in various capacities for the improvement district since 2015. Upon contract renewal in October 2023, Block by Block expanded programming to include Member Services — dispatch and other community resources — which was previously managed in-house by Union Square staff. Block by Block not only took over operational duties for the Member Services, but also administrative responsibilities like human resources and payroll for the team.
An added benefit is having a cohesive program all under the operational oversight of one person — General Manager Lance Goree. Lance oversees all elements of the Union Square program including cleaning, hospitality, placemaking and dispatch services. Not only does this provide budgetary benefits for customers, but also elicits a unified response to calls for service.
According to Sergio, Block by Block’s ability to manage Dispatch Services “sets us apart” from other service providers. Without a dedicated Dispatch Team, handling calls for requests falls on UPMO management or the Ambassador Team. These calls can interrupt the busy workload of these individuals, leading to difficulty following up and making sure tasks are completed. With devoted Dispatchers, requests are always completed from beginning to end.
“Our Dispatch Team is waiting for your call,” Sergio said. “They help alleviate requests coming in and they trust that the requests will be completed by the teams in the field. They trust but verify by calling and getting photos. They then follow up with the people who made the requests.”
Expanding Community Partnerships
The HP Community Dispatch Center is unique in that it is a collaborative partnership with the City of Los Angeles, Council District 13, Los Angeles County, LAPD and Hollywood 4WRD. When a call or request comes in, depending on the need of the call, the dispatch team directs the call to one of the aforementioned agencies or to BBB Safety, Hospitality and Cleaning Ambassadors. This allows requests and incidents to be funneled to the appropriate channels which are best suited to handle them most effectively.
A March 2022 survey conducted by the International Downtown Association identified addressing homelessness as the top priority for its U.S. members. For HP, that means working to address homelessness, addiction and mental health concerns for unhoused people in the district by connecting them with programs that can provide services to get the help they need. As calls come in regarding individuals who are unhoused, they can be directed to those in the partnership who work with the specific need.
Recently an assault resulting in a head injury was reported to the Community Dispatch Center. An HP Ambassador was the first to respond and consequently called 911 for an elevated response due to the violent nature of the assault. LAPD response took 30 minutes, during which the Ambassador Team mobilized to keep eyes on the suspect and monitor his location.
The Ambassador had taken a photo of the victim and collected all pertinent information to give to LAPD upon their arrival on the scene, which was after the victim had been transported to the hospital. The Ambassadors directed the LAPD officers to the suspect and subsequently an arrest was made.
“If it weren’t for [the Ambassadors] sticking around and gathering all the information while concurrently monitoring the suspect’s location, LAPD would not have been able to make an arrest and it’s possible the incident wouldn’t even have been documented, much less an arrest effected,” Angela La Riva, Vice President of Operations for HP, said.
“Due to our footprint in the [Hollywood Entertainment District], we are often the first to receive reports of violence and theft. With our [law enforcement] partners being so severely understaffed, we are often tasked to assist in connecting victims with [the police department] and providing important information so an investigation can be conducted. We play an important role in keeping Hollywood safe. This is fantastic work and a great example of how our team can partner with our public safety partners and help victims in the community.”
Quick, Efficient, Response
Having a dedicated Dispatch Team makes a significant difference in the ability to respond to requests for services. Both HP and Union Square Alliance utilize software that ensures every request is followed through from beginning to end. This guarantees service delivery for community stakeholders, promising districts they always get what they pay for.
The average response time for a request to HP Dispatch is 8-minutes (Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update). Two HP Dispatchers monitor phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, awaiting calls and emails from district stakeholders, visitors, businesses or residents.
Once a request is received, it is inputted into a software application that alerts the Ambassador Team of the request. The team will respond by priority based on the severity or urgency of the request. For instance, a request to handle a disgruntled individual would take precedence over a graffiti removal request. Sergio said lately there have been many calls requesting trash cleanup, and in June alone his teams collected 78 tons of garbage.
When Dispatch Team Members arrive for their shift, they review the app to ensure requests are being taken care of and reports are being closed. To document a request’s completion, HP Ambassadors will send photos of the completed work in the app or to Block by Block’s proprietary data collection and reporting software, the SMART System.
Like HP, Union Square Member Services operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phone lines are monitored around the clock to ensure all requests are heard, documented and handled. Union Square also has an elaborate security camera system in place the team monitors for unfolding situations or possible threats that may need to be addressed by Ambassadors, security personnel or police officers.
As calls and requests come in, the team will triage them based on priority and to which department they need to be directed. Requests involving members of the street population are forwarded to the security team, while those that can be handled by Ambassadors are sent to them accordingly. If the situation escalates or calls for it, it will be handed over to local police officers. The requests are dispersed via radio, a queue on SMART System or by calling Team Leads directly on their work phone for requests that are more private in nature.
Union Square uses District360 to manage requests. District360 is a Customer Relationship Management system that works directly with Salesforce that BBB Ambassadors use on their devices. Like in HP, not all requests are for BBB Ambassadors. So, requests are always first entered into Salesforce before being distributed to the responsible parties who may be using other software programs or response plans.
When a request is inputted into Salesforce for an Ambassador, Ambassadors will be pinged in District360 on their handheld devices to notify them that something needs to be addressed. Most of the time, Member Service Team Members will follow up to confirm tasks have been completed, ensuring guaranteed service delivery from beginning to end for stakeholders in the district.
As the landscape of public spaces continues to evolve, the importance of community-based services remains a priority for many UPMOs. Block by Block is focused on providing Ambassador Programs that go beyond clean and safe, and Dispatch Centers like those in Union Square and Hollywood show the value of having a service partner who can deliver on bettering districts.
If you want to discuss how BBB can provide Dispatch Services for your district or community, reach out to Aaron Perri at firstname.lastname@example.org .