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Phoenix parks security program could become permanent

A pilot program to address security at Phoenix parks could become permanent.

In an effort to reduce drug use, vandalism and fires, the City Council approved a temporary program using private security to patrol parks overnight. In less than four months, they’ve encountered nearly 800 people after hours. The unarmed guards have called police to help 22 times, and they’ve called 911 five times when it appeared people had overdosed. 

“It’s not in every park, they’re not covering every hour, so who knows how many ODs are going unnoticed,” said Councilman Jim Waring.

The parks department has reported a drop in vandalism and trash since patrols began.

“The numbers are irrefutable,” Waring said. “It’s saving taxpayers money because there's less vandalism and garbage and just making life more livable for the people who frankly deserve a lot of compassion and empathy, too. The people who are funding all this want to use the city amenities and don't want their kids to step on a dirty needle when they try to do the right thing and take them to the park to get some exercise and fresh air.”

The private security pilot program runs through November, and the parks department is in the process of hiring 14 new rangers to patrol overnight.

Staff will evaluate the effectiveness of using both before deciding whether to pursue a long-term private contract.

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