ATLANTIC CITY - City and state officials are preparing for the new Tourism District's first summer, and one thing they want to take care of before visitors start pouring in is the broken windows.
But they won't literally be repairing shattered glass. "Broken windows" is a law-enforcement strategy that targets minor issues in hopes of resolving them before the problems worsen.
"When you look at the concept behind ‘Broken Windows,' it's about taking a look at the smaller things," said State Police Lt. Col. Tom Gilbert, commander of the Tourism District. "You have to look at them as you look at the larger crime issues. That's shown to be an effective model."
Atlantic City's most important "broken windows" are on the Boardwalk, as far as the state is concerned. That's the area officials with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority believe will be the most changed this season due to improvements such as new lighting, the removal of vagrants from under the wooden walkway and an increased police presence.
"I think we're planting the seeds for everything," Gilbert said. "Whether a visitor is going to notice all of the immediate changes, I guess it depends on the visitor."
Many of the efforts to make the Boardwalk area cleaner start with the Special Improvement District Division, formerly a nonprofit group that has been absorbed by the CRDA. Don Guardian, head of the division, said the standards of cleanliness have been raised considerably.
"We now have very high standards where we won't tolerate any piece of trash on the Boardwalk and the beach," he said. "We want a completely trash-free beach. We want a completely weed-free beach."
Guardian used Miami Beach as an example of what can be done regardless of the activities around a city's beach, saying the partying and drug use that blankets the Florida resort is unnoticeable when looking at the cleanliness of the area's beaches.
But to make real improvements, Guardian needed more people. So his division is using eight more seasonal workers, including four more beach cleaners, three more workers for the Boardwalk and an additional employee to maintain the Boardwalk's bathrooms.
The division also added new equipment for its beach rakes to ensure that all trash - down to the last cigarette butt - is scooped up.
Moving forward, Gilbert said state officials plan to start a program called Protecting Atlantic City's Environment, or PACE. The initiative centers on creating a communication network among the authority, the city's social service officials and the local court system to identify "hot spots" of crime and pollution, and coordinate efforts to make improvements.
"I think you're going to find a greater level of communication," Gilbert said, adding that improving discussions among different city entities is essential to getting things done.
George Lynn, a committee chairman with the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, has been central to improving the network of social outreach agencies that work with the city's homeless community, another priority within the Tourism District.
But Lynn said tourists will not necessarily notice a decrease in homeless people within the district.
"Tourists don't notice that there are no homeless people around," he said. "They only notice when there are."
The CRDA also is contributing to the improvement of fun in Atlantic City. People on the Boardwalk should expect to see live entertainment at spots such as Kennedy Plaza and Brighton Park throughout the summer. The authority's board members recently approved funding for free public concerts at venues along the Boardwalk and at other publicly owned or managed locations.
Enhancing and diversifying entertainment in Atlantic City has been a goal of casino executives as well as city and state officials for the past few years. In some areas, those efforts also are helping to clean up locations that sorely needed attention.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford's administration scored a huge victory when it inked a deal with concert promoters to host the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, a three-day music festival scheduled for June 22 through 24 that is expected to draw 75,000 people to the city each day and generate about $50 million in revenue for area businesses, city officials say.
The location of the concert, city-owned Bader Field, forced the city to spruce up the former municipal airport and, perhaps more importantly, restore Sandcastle Stadium, the battered professional baseball field that had sunk into disrepair after the Atlantic City Surf folded in 2009.
The restoration of the stadium and the cleanup of the airport means both venues can accommodate other events this summer, including hosting rapper Rick Ross for a concert July 2 at the Sandcastle and possibly a motorsports event on the airport's runway strips later in the season.
"We're going to see a turnaround this summer, and the visitors will see it, too," Lynn said. "I think visitors are going to see a cleaner, safer, more fun Atlantic City."
Staff Writer Lynda Cohen contributed to this report.
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