The bars in Portland’s Old Port are individual businesses that compete with each other for customers.

But they are also in such close proximity that a problem in one establishment can spill over to its neighbors.

With all the bad news about drinking and violence in the city’s night-life district, there are also some signs of hope. The bar owners are working with each other and with police to make the Old Port a safer place for people looking to have a good time.

Announced last week by Police Chief James Craig, the doormen of a number of night spots are armed with cell phones that can quickly circulate pictures of people who have started trouble — or look like they might — before they can get to another club. The police also get to see the pictures, helping them know what to look for in what can be a confusing scene.

The idea is promising because it’s not some off-the-shelf program developed under other circumstances in another place. This is a new idea that came from talking to bar owners here about ways to make the district more orderly.

It also gets the bars working together on a common goal.

It’s easy to see why they’d want to. One bartender could stop serving a customer whose had too much, or a doorman could bounce someone for fighting and they would be taking care of their own business.

But if the problem customer resumes drinking at a place around the corner, not much has been accomplished to preserve public safety. And that is bad for business all over the Old Port.

The bar owners recognize that when people complain about rowdiness in the Old Port, they are complaining about the whole neighborhood, not just one or two bars. So, all of the businesses lose out if the district maintains its lawless reputation.

The death of Eric Benson of Westbrook, who was killed in an after-hours scuffle, shows that no amount of violence can be tolerated.

Craig and the police department deserve credit for coming up with creative ideas for how to combat this problem.

And the bar owners deserve credit as well for recognizing that they may be competing with each other for business, but they all lose when drinking and fighting get out of hand.