Data: Crime increasing in some neighborhoods along Phoenix light rail

Posted at 8:28 PM, Aug 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-08 07:21:30-04

The Phoenix light rail has been a blessing or a curse, depending on whom you ask.

For many Valley residents, it's been a lifeline and their only mode of transportation getting them to work, doctor visits, and grocery stores.

City officials will tell you it's sparked billions of dollars in economic development, bringing old strip malls back to life, and the promise of more growth for many parts of the Valley.

For many others, it's been a nightmare that has brought one problem after another. Increased fights, cases of trespassing, break-ins, shoplifting, and vandalism that has shattered the peace for many residents living near the light rail stops.

Phoenix District 2 Councilman Jim Waring said he was concerned about all of those issues when the city first discussed building a light rail system, now he worries about the cost to voters who are forced to fund it, whether they use it or not.

He requested crime statistics for several neighborhoods along 19th Avenue when transit officials requested $600,000 in funding to beef up security along the light rail tracks. Waring said the numbers were startling.

"It was worse than I thought, I knew it would be bad, I didn't care what the city was telling me, I knew it would be bad, but this is a lot worse than I actually expected," said Waring.

He added that none of the light rail stops along the 19th Avenue corridor were in his district, but he felt compelled to ask for more information after hearing from so many frustrated residents and business owners who had voiced concerns about public safety in the area.

"I heard from so many people, 'This is ruining my life, this is ruining my business,'" he said. "Now the proof is in the pudding, you have the statistics in your hand."

The numbers he provided ABC15 were a compilation of police calls to some of the light rail stops that opened in March of 2016. The data showed the number of police calls for service increased by 37% at 19th and Glendale avenues, 56% at 19th and Northern avenues, and a whopping 73% at 19th Avenue and Dunlap Road. 

"What we're doing is we're bringing crime into these neighborhoods, we're checking on numbers for other stops right now, but with these neighborhoods it's irrefutable," he said. "Crime has increased dramatically since the light rail went into effect in these neighborhoods."

The reports show a drastic increase in the number of calls involving fights increasing from 120 calls in 2014 to 225 calls in 2016.  

The number of assaults in the 19th Avenue and Dunlap Road area went from 20 in 2014 to 63 in 2016.

The number of trespassing calls more than doubled from 325 in 2014 to 869 in 2016.

George Immerso, a neighborhood block watch leader with the Royal Palms Senior Living Community right across the Dunlap Road light rail stop said residents there were extremely frustrated.

"There's a lot of homeless here now, transients," Immerso said. "There is a lot of drama, a lot of panhandling, some of the people are very nasty, they get very outspoken; I've chased them out with the golf cart to get them out of here."

You can see the crime analysis reports for the above-mentioned neighborhoods below.

The city council did approve the $600,000 request to increase security along the transit lines.

Lars Jacoby, a spokesman with the City of Phoenix Public Transit Department sent ABC15 the following statement:

"The $600,000 that was approved by Council on June 28 is to purchase 16 bicycles for the sworn officers of the TEU ($17,600) and to fund four extra-duty officer hours ($582,400). However, this could include police officers, assistants or any other combination to be assigned for targeted transit enforcement and crime suppression by the Transit Enforcement Unit."

Here’s the makeup of Phoenix Police Department's Transit Enforcement Unit: 16 sworn officers, 8 extra-duty officers, 3 K9 handlers, 23 police assistants and 24 municipal security guards 

ABC15 also reached out to Phoenix police to find out how they're handling the increase in calls.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard sent ABC15 the following statement:

"The 19th Avenue corridor is a focus area for our precinct resources. Neighborhood Enforcement Teams, Community Action Officers and patrol are involved in ongoing enforcement programs. Currently, all new officers spend multiple shifts within this area conducting proactive enforcement.  Our Neighborhood Enforcement Team in that precinct make all incidents of violent crime, property crime and drug complaints in this area their priority.  As a result, numerous robbery suspects have been identified and arrested during the past several months.  Precinct officers and Transit officers are working hand and hand on a daily basis, investigating crimes and exchanging information."