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More Police Presence Proposed For Light Rail In Phoenix

Phoenix is taking more steps to beef up security along the light-rail line. The city is looking to buy police bicycles and dedicate more officer hours to transit.

“If we are going to have a good rail system, people have to feel safe about riding it, and I probably hear more about that than anything else,” Councilwoman Thelda Williams said.

That’s why Williams and her colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee will recommend the full City Council spend another $600,000. It would cover extra police hours for the Police Department’s Transit Enforcement Unit and add 16 bicycles, which Cmdr. Brad Burt says will increase mobility and improve community relations. 

“Kinda forces us into a position where we have to interact face to face, we’re not sitting behind steel and windows,” he told the subcommittee. “I like it from a manager’s standpoint because it gets my officers out there. And, there is several studies that indicate there is a community affection for that kind of enforcement.”

Vice Mayor Laura Pastor said it’s not only about security, but also economic development, ”We want to increase ridership, we want to expand, we need to make sure that it’s safe, that people feel comfortable on the line and that it’s safe.”

Late last year, Phoenix police conducted a crime-suppression pilot program along the 19th Avenue Corridor and earlier this year devoted extra officer hours to the area. 

Councilwoman Kate Gallego expressed concern about homeless people being repeatedly arrested and said, “I don’t see how we’re going to arrest our way out of this problem.”

She said people tell her they want to see more fare inspectors and professional staff in uniform and suggested looking at whether the city could get more bang for its bucks by using more police assistants rather than a smaller number of sworn officers. 

Gallego also asked about investments in technology and security equipment. Albert Santana, director of high capacity transit in Phoenix, said Valley Metro is working with the city on ways to boost its private security staffing to and upgrade technology like facial recognition to support police investigations. More details are expected to be shared in the coming months.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.