It's a pretty obvious theory, but it's a theory inspired by listening to a 508 podcast from a couple weeks ago. Mike, Brendan and Bruce talk at length about the proposterous perception that downtown Worcester is a scary and dangerous place. Unfortunately, while I do believe this perception to be completely unfounded, I do talk to more people who believe this than don't believe it.
I noticed while spending time in Central Sq in Cambridge a couple weeks ago that there are way way way more scary individuals on Mass Ave then any centralized location in Worcester. This however is where my theory comes in. While there were way more thugs, junkies, homeless, and overall shifty looking people in Central Sq there were also many other different types of people walking around. No matter what type of person you might consider yourself, chances are there were enough of your kind walking around in Central Sq so that you won't feel out of place. Of course there were people who wouldn't be able to take certain aspects of the Sq at all, but chances are these are people who just really don't like cities to begin with.
The theory is that for every upstanding person walking around the common and the general neighborhood of downtown Worcester there are nine shifty looking folks walking around. Now the reality is that these ten people may very well be the only people in the common at any given time, and there in lies the problem.
The city can do what they want to combat this, they can have foot patrols, they can take the benches out of Federal Sq (I am eating a bit of crow on this one I admit), and they can try and shew this population away. Guess what? We live in a city of almost 200,000 people. These people are here to stay. What the city needs to do is get creative and figure out ways to draw a broader range of people downtown so that folks feel comfortable in their own skin. We can criticize Central Massachusetts' citizens all we want for their unjust fear of Downtown, but I think it's only human nature for people to not feel quite right about being a minority, no matter what type of minority you are.