CHICO — The R-Town Downtown Coalition sprinted to a start Monday morning with the aide of a cleanup brigade and security patrols in the downtown core.

Before many businesses had even opened their doors for the day, clients from the Jesus Center were busy scrubbing walkways and picking up trash. As the day went on, armed security patrols went door-to-door to introduce themselves to store owners and see who is interested in their free services.

“It really was an effort that was needed and a lot of people pitched in to make it happen. It’s going to be a very exhaustive effort,” said coalition member Doug Guillon. “It will make a difference downtown.”

With help from business people, property owners and community support organizations, the program came together in a few short weeks. The goal is to make downtown Chico enjoyable for visitors and residents by addressing anti-social and criminal behavior on private property.

With private funding, the coalition is backing two months of private security patrols downtown and the cleanup brigade. After the holidays, it will examine the effort to determine if and how it should continue.

Dressed in green pants, black shirts, badges and waist belts that include various combinations of pepper spray, Tasers, batons and guns, the security officers started to make themselves known. At each stop, they explained R-Town’s goals and provided paperwork to grant authority for the security firm to provide patrol on the property.

A.G. Private Protection currently serves 100 sites in Chico, including the Chico Area Recreation District and supervision services for Chico Police Department. In its two years serving the community, its guards have had no instances of major force and made three arrests, said operations Lt. Ryan Spehling.

Many of the guards are graduates of a law enforcement academy and using it as a stepping stone for a career, Spehling said. The company’s owners are former police officers.

Until the guards spend more time downtown, he said they won’t know the problems they will be most effective in addressing, Spehling said. They’ll try to diffuse situations on their own, and if necessary, call Chico police for support.

“Just being a deterrent could be a huge impact,” he said. “And we are eyes and ears for local law enforcement.”

Business owners seemed supportive of the idea.

“We’ve had a lot of problems with street people,” said Trevor Joyner, co-owner of Bidwell Title & Escrow.

Homeless or transients regularly sit on the business planters, smoke marijuana and refuse to leave, he said, and employees who arrive early in the morning often have to use other entrances when the primary ones are blocked by sleeping people. In more than one instance, transients have grown aggressive when asked to leave.

Joyner said it’d be great to have a way to address such problems, which he knows plague other businesses, too.

On Monday, the patrols were accompanied by orange-vested R-Town volunteers. Similar to the Downtown Ambassadors, they will direct people to necessary services and report any problems they see to the security guards.

As volunteer Laurie Maloney walked with two guards Monday, addressing both the homeless and business owners by name, she said ultimately the city needs more law enforcement, but until then, maybe R-Town can be a starting point.

She’s hoping to see more businesses work together toward finding solutions, including those that go beyond security.

“We are dealing with a lot of different people out here so it’s going to take a lot of different resources to solve this,” Maloney said.

Bill Such, executive director of the Jesus Center, said he’s happy to be involved in R-Town. Admittedly nervous about armed guards, Such said he wants to be part of any solution that helps the homeless and the needy.

He identified four Jesus Center clients to participate in the cleanup brigade, where they are paid to clean downtown two hours a day, six days a week. On Monday, two other clients volunteered to help for free.

“It communicates to the community that people want to work and they just can’t find jobs at this point,” Such said. “This gives them an opportunity we hope to connect with the business community and find other work as well.”

It also helps erase negative perceptions people may have about the impact of the homeless, Such said. He eventually would love to see Jesus Center clients become full-time cleaners downtown.

“I’m just pleased to be able to get people out of their situation and into employment, even if just for a few hours,” he said. “Who knows what this could lead to.”

More R-Town volunteers are needed, and any financial support would be appreciated, Guillon said. For more information visit

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