Gilbert Police Department may add new position solely focused on helping youth, chief says

Apr 3, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:12 pm

Youth engagement officer position Gilbert Police Department Arizona...

The Gilbert Police Department may create a new position solely focused on serving teens and children in the town. (Gilbert Police Department photo, left, Pexels stock photo, right)

(Gilbert Police Department photo, left, Pexels stock photo, right)

PHOENIX — Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg said his department is considering expanding its staff to combat the rise of youth violence in the East Valley.

“We’re looking for different ways of expanding our reach to the community,” Soelberg told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

In fact, they might add a new position within the police department that specifically focuses on serving young people in the town.

“It’s a youth community engagement officer to focus on our engagement of our youth,” Soelberg said.

Youth engagement officer would give Gilbert PD new way to help kids

Currently, Gilbert PD has multiple initiatives to help prevent teen violence and other crimes.

It has 12 school resource officers — also known as SROs — as well as anti-bullying programs within Gilbert’s three school districts.

“That’s just one tool in the toolbelt,” Soelberg said. His department also educates all incoming freshmen about what to do in dangerous situations and how to report crimes.

Gilbert PD also has various youth engagement initiatives such as the Gilbert Youth Leadership Academy. This initiative teaches students about community involvement, public speaking and leadership.

There’s also a summer program as well as the Aspire Academy, a four-day camp that inspires girls in Gilbert high schools, he added.

Essentially, adding the position of youth engagement officer would expand the department’s current strategies, Soelberg said.

Gilbert PD focuses on youth after death of Preston Lord

The October 2023 death of a 16-year-old named Preston Lord after a group attack in Queen Creek highlighted the issue of youth violence in the East Valley.

Soelberg and Queen Creek Police Department Chief Randy Brice both said it’s difficult to investigate violent cases that aren’t reported.

However, things are slowly changing, Soelberg said. The fact that the QCPD arrested seven people suspected of killing Lord makes people more willing to step forward.

Gilbert PD’s pursuit of youth violence suspects also gives victims the confidence to report attacks, he added.

“Obviously, making arrests in all of these cases, specifically in the Preston Lord homicide case with Queen Creek, it brings the reality of actions have consequences and these people will be held accountable,” Soelberg said.

That’s the message going forward, he added.

“These people will be held accountable,” he said. “We need the community to report these crimes to us and the other agencies.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Several juveniles were arrested after an alleged riot broke out at a behavioral center. (Facebook F...

Several minors arrested after alleged fight breaks out at Phoenix behavior center

A number of minors were arrested Saturday after a large fight allegedly broke out at a behavior center in Phoenix, authorities confirmed.

7 hours ago


KTAR Video

Video: Initial reaction to Donald Trump rally shooting #news

Larry Gaydos and Joe Huizenga react to the Donald Trump rally shooting in a KTAR News special programming and question the type of security that could allow such an event to unfold.

9 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Arizona politicians react to shooting at Trump rally in Pennsylvania

Arizona politicians quickly weighed in after the shooting at Donald Trump's rally on Saturday in Pennsylvania, which is being investigated as an assassination attempt.

11 hours ago

The Arizona Corporation Commission have been working to make sure that utilities have enough capaci...

Bailey Leasure

Arizona Corporation Commission working to ensure utilities hold up during heat wave

The Arizona Corporation Commission have been working to make sure that utilities have enough capacity to meet demand during excessive heat.

14 hours ago

FILE - Members of the Henderson Fire Department load Deb Billet, 66, into an ambulance before trans...

Associated Press

Things to know about heat deaths as a dangerously hot summer shapes up in the western US

A dangerously hot summer is shaping up in the U.S. West, with heat suspected in dozens of recent deaths.

16 hours ago

(Mesa Police Department)...

Traffic fatalities in Arizona decreased slightly in 2023

The number of traffic fatalities in Arizona decreased by about 1% in 2023 compared to 2022, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Gilbert Police Department may add new position solely focused on helping youth, chief says