Maintaining public safety is not a job for police alone — officers need the community’s help.
The Phoenix Police Department is preparing to redistribute its resources and the number of officers stationed to an area. The number of 9-1-1 calls made by downtown residents will affect the number of police officers in the area.
“If we don’t know (about a crime) it becomes much more difficult to address the needs of an area,” said Phoenix Police Department public information officer Sgt. Tommy Thompson.
Despite the impact of 9-1-1 calls on how the police department serves the community, some community members think downtown residents aren’t always willing to call the police when they should.
Dorina Bustamante, board member of Evans Churchill Community Association, said it can be hard to make calls to police.
“You don’t want to call the police on people that are just trying to get by in life,” she said in relation to the population of transients in the downtown area.
Bustamante said the community should be making more calls about such things as lewd acts in alleyways and loitering.
As the project lead for the Ro2 Lot, Bustamante recounted an issue of transients trying to sleep by the Peritoneum art piece installed at the lot.
“Sometimes when you create something so nice, people want to stay there too long,” she said.
Thompson said the police department is currently preparing to reallocate its number of officers in certain areas, and that the process should be completed in early 2013.
Some squads may have 10 officers as compared to five in other areas. Thompson said he hopes the reconfiguring will even out these numbers for a fairer distribution.
The volume and types of calls received, along with police response time to calls, are main factors of the distribution. Natural barriers like mountains and busy freeways, along with population density, are also factors.
Thompson encourages citizens to not just report crime, but to “take the time… to not be victims.”
In addition to making more calls to police, Kevin Rille, president of Evans Churchill Community Association, said the community needs to come together in voicing opposition for things that may be detrimental to public safety.
“Public safety is one of those things you can always do better,” he said.
Rille pointed to the Circle K at Seventh and Roosevelt streets and its application for a liquor license as an example of an issue where the community has come together to express concern for public safety.
“We need to have good neighbors and businesses,” he said. “Having a stronger community is public safety.”
To help formalize a community relationship with the police, Evans Churchill Community Association is in the process of starting a block watch program.
“A lot of people don’t like the police,” Rille said. “The police are good guys.”
The program will educate the community about police and generate more regular interaction between the two, he said.
Rille said the association hopes to have a community action officer present once a quarter to share what police are seeing and allow citizens to ask questions and share their concerns.
“Block watch — that’s how regular citizens have a voice,” he said.
A community action officer attended an Evans Churchill meeting in October, urging attendees to call 9-1-1 or crime stoppers whenever they think it might be necessary.
Thompson said that with nicer weather this time of year people begin leaving windows open at night and forget to close them when leaving for work, availing themselves to burglary.
Simple actions, such as leaving homes and cars unlocked and forgoing escort services when walking alone at night can cause people to be victims of crimes, Thompson said.
Bustamante said she thinks the addition of ASU and more businesses downtown have helped add safety to the area by increasing the amount of people walking and biking, and consequently, looking out for one another.
“It is our responsibility to interact with other citizens and keep them safe, but not let them take advantage,” Bustamante said.
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Clarification: Oct. 30, 2012
An earlier version of this article said people who leave their windows open are availing themselves to robbery. The article has been changed to clarify that those people would be availing themselves to burglary — the act of entering someone else’s property with the intent of committing a crime — rather than robbery — the act of taking something from a person by threat or force.