Day in the Life: Golden Triangle Ambassador “Don-Juan Jord-An” Patrols the Cultural District

Jordan Bright is one of 11 full-time ambassadors the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hired to make Downtown Pittsburgh safer and more welcoming.
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Jordan “Don Juan Jord-An” Bright walks down Liberty Avenue Downtown when he picks up the smell of marijuana in the air. One glance behind him and one to the side, but never stopping, and he spots the offender. A minute later, the incident has been reported through the iPad he has holstered at his side. 

Over two hours, Bright puts in a report for “aggressive panhandling” and for a man “screaming nothing into the air.” He almost records a public intoxication incident, but the man standing outside of the liquor store holds off on twisting the cap off his Modelo.

When Bright makes a report, it’s only to briefly describe the offense — not identify the perpetrator. 

“We’re not a bunch of Karens who immediately call the police,” Bright says.

Bright is one of 11 full-time employees of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership Golden Ambassador Program, which launched late last month. Seven days a week, a rotation of three ambassadors patrol several Downtown districts and report any crimes they witness in a virtual logbook to give police an understanding of where they should station officers. 

The program is an extension of PDP’s Clean and Outreach services; it strives to make Downtown a more “welcoming place,” according to a press release announcing the initiative. 

Pittsburgh officials have been criticized as rates of violent crime, homelessness and drug use increased in recent months — especially in the Cultural District. Mayor Ed Gainey promised to increase the number of police officers Downtown, along with improving access to homelessness, mental health and substance abuse programs. 

“Downtown is Pittsburgh’s heart and soul, and these Ambassadors will play an integral part in helping everyone feel safe and welcome in the heart of our great city,” Gainey said in the press release. “We have seen this type of program work in other cities, and we believe that this initiative will be a critical piece of our efforts to help more people be able to enjoy all that Downtown has to offer.”

Bright’s shift starts at 2:30 p.m. He comes out of Two PNC Plaza Downtown wearing the Ambassador Uniform — a hefty blue hooded jacket and golden beanie peeking through. Walkie-talkie crackling alive, he sets off into the Cultural District where he’ll circle laps for the rest of the day.

Bright describes the role as a “hybrid between a dispatcher and a social worker” and says his job is only to report — not intervene. However, he’s trained in CPR and Narcan administration, used in cases of opioid overdose, and is also able to summon help from police or social services if needed. 

“I’m more of a means to an end guy,” Bright says. “I produce results. The bosses are happy, that’s good enough for me. I don’t really get into all the philosophical sentimental stuff behind it.”

Bright, 31, spent the past decade or so working odd jobs — everything from furniture mover to bodega clerk. He says he stumbled across the ambassador job listing online and just happened to be good at it. He credits his speed and “stealthiness” to his artful patrolling.

“You want to be almost like a lizard on the wall,” Bright says. “You want to be there as a presence, but a lot of the time you don’t want to be seen. You want to watch and observe and document without making people nervous.”

Later in the day, Bright’s supervisor, Joe “Officer Joe” Keffer, joins him.

“We call him Officer Joe because when he shows up to work in a suit and tie we’re like ‘There’s a new sheriff in town,’” Bright says with an infectious smile. “Ever seen that movie, ‘Judge Dredd?’ Judge Joe ‘I am the law.’ I’m just kidding.”

“Oh, brother,” Keffer says.

Keffer spent the greater part of the last two decades in fine dining and catering. Now, patrolling the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh, he still wears dress shoes that have been long broken in. He says he walks an average of 40 miles a week. 

Keffer and Bright say though the job is rewarding, it can take its toll as they come across overdose victims, poverty and crime on a weekly basis. Keffer says PDP is “absolutely wonderful” in the extent of mental health services it provides to everyone in the Ambassador program and Clean and Outreach services.

“The City is trying. They hired the additional means, they hired the additional police,” Keffer says. “I would love to see, you know, definitely a drop in crime rates. I would love to see the city doing better. I’d love to see more ambassadors in our program just to grow and be able to provide a service for the community. I think that is a very realistic goal — our people are amazing.”

A man approaches Keffer on 10th Street and asks for directions to the Social Security Administration building. Without hesitation, Keffer says he will walk him there and says goodbye to Bright. 

Bright keeps on patrolling. He says the day is calmer than usual, though later that night he will be stationed at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for an event, so it will likely pick up. 

“People see the outfit and are like, ‘Oh, there go the police’ but really we’re a resource for different things,” Bright says. “We can help with something like giving foreign tourists who can’t speak English directions — that’s a big part of the job.

“Half the job is being aware and observing, but I’d say another big part of it is being as hospitable as you can to the average citizen.”

Categories: The 412