Thefts: On Our Own?

Those of you who follow our listserv know that Armory Park has had a recent rash of thefts and home break-ins. The problem became even more visible at a general meeting of the Armory Park Neighborhood Association. The meeting was attended by a standing-room-only crowd of our neighbors. Neighbor concerns were addressed by representatives of the Tucson Police Department and Community Bridges Incorporated.

Meeting observations – Feedback from TPD was not encouraging. The usual comments about the limited number of officers and limited funding were delivered. Since the TPD districts were reorganized a few years ago, Armory Park is now part of the Operations Division West located on Miracle Mile. We are no longer a part of the Downtown District. The south boundary is 22nd Street. To see a map of the division, click here: TPD Ops Div West (PDF).

Next, we were told that property crimes were down in Armory Park though it was acknowledged that our actual recent experiences were not consistent with that data. I looked on the TPD crime statistics on the department’s web page and found a contradictory story of recent crimes. A search for the last month disclosed 37 crime reports related to property thefts and possible violence. Of these, ten were breaking and entering. The others were various thefts, assaults and disorders. If you want to see the data I extracted, click here: Armory Park Crimes (PDF).

We were also given the usual tips on home security: locking doors & windows, lighting, bars on windows, radio or TV on, etc. Some have already done many of these things or more. As things stand, these steps will only cause the thieves to move on to your neighbors. Even the somewhat impaired thieves are capable of some rational judgement; if there is a benefit from stealing and there is no risk, why not do it. Even if we have reported crimes, there has been little or no police response. From my own observation and the experiences of neighbors, there is no meaningful investigation happening after the crime. If there is no downside for the criminals, crimes will continue.

Several officers attended the meeting and the presentation was made by a sergeant. He promised to pass our concerns up his chain of command but as leader of one out of ten squads in the division, he can only take direct actions with his subordinates. This did not make me confident that there would be any effective action. Several neighbors told their stories of criminal activity for him to pass along.

On a different but related subject, two representatives from CBI answered neighbors’ complaints about their clients who behave badly and degrade the quality of life in the northeast corner of our neighborhood. Their clients who often have substance abuse or mental health issues are brought to the CBI facility from all over the city. CBI cannot detain those who decline referral for help and wish to leave. This turns them loose at that corner of Armory Park. In the past, they have declined to adopt security measures requested by neighbors and months after being requested to improve exterior lighting at their facility, announced that the lighting is now installed. The APNA board has had discussions with CBI staff over time but my reading is that the outcomes do not satisfy our affected neighbors and have not been well communicated to our residents. The website and listserv should be used to keep residents informed on issues of concern and to encourage feedback to the board. Armory Park has many empathetic residents who value the humanitarian services of organizations like CBI. I do also, but they cannot be allowed to operate at an unreasonable cost to their neighbors.

In this regard, Michael Lex posted a useful bit of information on the listserv. He wrote, “I didn’t attend last evening’s meeting but a thought came to me while discussing the situation with a neighbor this morning. Long-time residents may recall the free food kitchen at 6th Avenue and 18th operated by Episcopal Services as St Martin’s in the early 1980s. The increase in transient foot traffic through the neighborhood and the attendant increase in crime resulted in APNA obtaining a Restraining Order, which was ultimately upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court in Armory Park v Episcopal Community Services, 148 Ariz 1 (1985). The case permits organizations such as APNA to seek redress from not-for profit entities upon proof of the creation of a public nuisance. If the suspected not-for-profit originator of the recent neighborhood crime wave can be factually tied to it, there is a legal means by which it (they?) can be enjoined.” Thanks, Michael, for the useful information.

Encouraging Signs –  Recent posts on the listserv have described a much more active response by TPD to crimes over the last few days. I won’t call this a trend until is has persisted for some time but it may improve my pessimistic view of our future. It illustrates the truth of the old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” It doesn’t, however, change the basic calculation; until some of the thieves are caught and punished, they will just victimize another neighborhood. Is that what we should hope for?.

If you want to comment on any of this (agree, disagree, add on) please use the comment feature shown at the left of the article. I will respond and others may too. 


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