The Phoenix City Council Wednesday approved a $600,000 increase recommended by the the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee for extra duty police officers and security improvements on public transit on a vote of eight to one.
Brad Burt, the commander for the Phoenix Police Department, said an increase of four police officers would increase light rail safety along the entire route and provide support in areas of higher need such as the 19th avenue corridor. The overall goal is to “continue being proactive” with public safety and increase safety along the entire route, he added.
According the the city council agenda, the $600,000 increase would also include a purchase a 16 bicycles for use by Transit Enforcement Unit along with funding extra duty police officer hours for targeted transit enforcement and crime suppression.
Councilman Jim Waring, disagreed with the increase and said the proposal is not a “fair deal” as citizens residing in districts with no light rail service still have to incur the costs. “I hear that we are doing this because of 19th avenue,” Waring said. A $600,000 allocation based on one area of need is unnecessary, he added.
Mayor Greg Stanton said public safety on the light rail is critical as the transit system allows the city to host large scale “special events like the superbowl” which result in huge economic benefits. The transit system “brings in $9 billion dollars” annually, he added.
Councilwoman Laura Pastor, said although the officers may spend some time on 19th avenue, the goal of the additional officers is to increase safety “across the whole line.” Councilman Daniel Valenzuela said there is crime that happens throughout the city and “public safety is a number one priority of any government.”
Councilwoman Kate Gallego said “multiple modes of transportation” are needed for continued city growth. Gallego said ridership numbers show “99 percent satisfaction” and “people do crazy stuff on the streets too.” A stigma of the light rail being the only place for crime is a misconception, she added.
Valenzuela said he is very passionate about the 19 avenue corridor as he works closely with businesses in the area. The light rail may require an increase in the budget for public transit safety but the benefits outweigh the costs, Valenzuela said. “You can see the return on investment” as the transit system has sparked a catalyst in increasing the success of ASU Downtown and the Phoenix Biomedical campus, he added
Waring aid the city brings a problem into the city (light rail) and instead of spending more time planning, it waits until there is a bigger issue and then “takes minimal steps to solve it.” He requested that data be collected to display the top areas where the additional officers spent their time.
The Public Transit and Police Department will evaluate the effectiveness of the plans and the Citizen’s Transportation Committee will discuss recommendations for the next fiscal year, according the the city council agenda.