Nov 3, 2022 - News

Phoenix will add overnight security at 12 parks

Illustration of a flashlight shining on a playground slide.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Phoenix City Council voted Wednesday to add overnight security at 12 city parks in hopes of deterring criminal activity and trespassing.

What's happening: The city does not have enough full-time park rangers to adequately monitor its 185 urban parks, especially at night, according to a city staff report shared in an agenda released ahead of Wednesday's council meeting.

  • The council recently approved additional park rangers, but the city is having trouble recruiting enough people to fill the positions.
  • Currently, there are two to four park rangers working at any one time across the city, which encompasses more than 500 square miles.

State of play: Wednesday's council vote established a pilot program that will deploy security guards to rove Cortez, Washington, Pierce, Cielito, El Oso, Perry, Cesar Chavez, Sunnyslope, Paradise Valley, Los Olivos and Maryvale parks and Camelback Mountain's Cholla Trail.

  • They will educate people about park rules, ask people to leave after parks close and call police if they witness a crime.
  • They will mostly perform the same duties as park rangers but will not write citations.

Why it matters: Some council members said their constituents have told them they don't feel comfortable using the parks because of drug use, violence and other criminal activity they've witnessed.

What they're saying: "I'm at my wits end, and I'm just begging you to please please consider the impact on everyone," resident Morgan Sailor, who lives near Perry Park, told the council.

The other side: A handful of residents told the council they opposed the program, saying it will increase policing, especially related to people experiencing homelessness who sometimes sleep or loiter in parks.

  • Council members Laura Pastor, Yassamin Ansari, Carlos Garcia and Betty Guardado opposed the measure. They said that while they want parks to be safe, they didn't think private security would deter crime.

The intrigue: This issue illuminated the split between the progressive council members and Mayor Kate Gallego and council member Debra Stark, who are more moderate democrats.

  • Gallego and Stark teamed with the conservatives on the council to approve the pilot program.

What we're watching: The council dynamics could shift after next week's council elections.

  • Councilman Sal DiCiccio, a Republican, is termed out and Gallego is backing moderate Kevin Robinson, while Guardado has endorsed Kellen Wilson, who is more progressive.
  • Garcia is up for reelection and faces moderate challengers as well.

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