While York city centre is in lockdown, who is keeping a watchful eye on the many empty businesses?
The police, of course – but also the York BID Street Rangers.
Since the coronavirus emergency began, the Rangers have become the “eyes and ears” of the city centre.
The award-winning Rangers service, provided by the York BID (Business Improvement District), has been popular since it began in September 2016. Regular patrols have helped to detect and deter thousands of crimes, while the Rangers have supported city businesses and offered a welcoming, supportive presence to residents and visitors.
But in these challenging times the Rangers have taken on a new role. Owners of city centre businesses are asking them to check on their properties while they are away.
More than 130 sign up
The new service was introduced by the BID as part of its commitment to helping businesses through these unprecedented times. So far more than 130 firms have signed up.
“The Rangers are checking every business on the list every day, sometimes more than once,” said Carl Nickson, managing director of Eboracum UK Ltd, which runs the service on behalf of the BID.
“We’re checking to make sure there’s no damage, that there’s no health and safety problems, that the doors aren’t broken, the windows aren’t broken.
“And then we will contact the owner or the manager if we’ve seen any issues.”
So far they have spotted a broken window at one business, enabling it to be mended before it became a point of entry for a burglar.
They also noticed a water leak in Reiss, on Low Petergate, while on patrol with police. This enabled the fire service to enter the property and turn off the supply before it could cause much greater damage.
Rangers alerted the owners of Plush Cafe on Stonegate to an alarm going off, and waited for them to arrive. “We went into the building with them,” Carl said. “It turned out to be the fire alarm, not the intruder alarm, and it was all fine.”
York Museums Trust have asked the Rangers to unlock and lock the Museum Gardens gates at pre-arranged times, patrol the park and check on both the Yorkshire Museum and the Observatory.
Carl said: “We’re the eyes and ears of the city. We notice other things, not just to do with businesses. We might see things we need to tell the council about.”
On top of this work, the Rangers are supporting York police. Being seen around the city centre acts as a deterrent to potential criminals, and helps to discourage anyone thinking of flouting the social distancing rules.
Meanwhile they are checking up on the still-active businesses like supermarkets. “That’s where crime is going to happen,” says Carl, “because they can’t shoplift anywhere else.”
The Rangers’ coronavirus service has received a lot of positive feedback. “Thank you so much for the service, it’s removed a big concern,” one business owner wrote.
Another said: “Thank you for creating a supportive scheme that keeps our business and city safe.”
Helping in the crisis
Carl said the work is undertaken following strict protocols and social distancing measures to ensure everyone’s safety.
He said: “We’ll keep going as long as we need to and keep the reassurance out there.”
Executive director of the York BID, Andrew Lowson, said: “The York Street Rangers are doing a really important job in challenging circumstances, and we are very grateful for their work and dedication.
“Their ongoing patrols are one way the BID is helping city businesses through this crisis. We are actively working to support hard-pressed businesses in any way we can.”
City centre businesses which are closed due to Covid-19 in the BID area can request Ranger checks via an online form here.
For information on coronavirus business support or to contact the York BID team please visit the website.