Phoenix City Council narrowly approves pilot program to address urban park security

Nov 3, 2022, 10:14 AM | Updated: 10:37 am
Washington Park (Facebook Photo/City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department)...
Washington Park (Facebook Photo/City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department)
(Facebook Photo/City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday narrowly approved a pilot program to address security concerns at 12 urban parks.

Under the plan, the city will spend up to $800,000 from the Parks and Recreation Department budget over six months to expand its current contract with Surveillance Security, Inc.

Security guards will be assigned to cover 2-3 parks each from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. daily. Their duties will include patrolling the parks, educating the public about rules and ensuring the parks are empty when closed.

They also will coordinate with the city’s park rangers, police and PHX Cares homeless services staff when the situation calls for it. The guards won’t have the authority to write citations.

Surveillance Security, Inc. already provides additional security at Civic Space, Margaret T. Hance and Heritage Square parks in the downtown area.

Mayor Kate Gallego sided with the council’s conservative and moderate members in Wednesday’s 5-4 vote.

“In a time when we are dangerously low on park rangers and police officers, we need every tool in our tool belt to help keep our communities safe,” District 1 Councilwoman Ann O’Brien said in a statement after the vote.

“It’s time we expand our security services past just the three parks located downtown. If it’s good enough for downtown Phoenix, it’s good enough for our neighborhoods.”

The council’s liberal wing of Yassamin Ansari, Carlos Garcia, Betty Guardado and Laura Pastor voted against the program.

Ansari, who represents District 7, said park security was a critical issue, but she didn’t think the pilot program was the right way to address it.

“This proposal was rushed, and it was fiscally irresponsible to move forward with it,” she said in a statement.

“I look forward to more robust conversations in both the Public Safety and the Community and Cultural Investment subcommittees to propose more thoughtful solutions that will genuinely enhance the safety of our parks and communities.”

The new program is expected to start in four to six weeks.

At least one park in each of the city’s eight council districts plus four others identified as needing security enhancements will be covered: Cortez, Washington, Pierce, Cielito, El Oso, Perry, Cesar Chavez, Maryvale, Sunnyslope, Paradise Valley, Los Olivos and Cholla Trail.

The selections were based on a combination of criteria, including frequency of ranger visits, code of conduct violations and trespass notices.

Phoenix has 88 full-time and 11 part-time ranger positions to cover more than 180 urban parks. Fifteen of the positions were unfilled when the agenda item on the security pilot program was prepared.

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Phoenix City Council narrowly approves pilot program to address urban park security