The Phoenix City Council has approved a program to increase private security and surveillance in public parks deemed the most at risk for dangerous and illegal activity.
The pilot program will place unarmed private security in at least one park per city district, according to a release. It is an expansion of a similar program being used at three parks in downtown Phoenix.
The council wants the program to be a temporary solution until the city can increase recruitment and retention of park rangers and police officers “or develop a more holistic approach to what is indeed a systemic issue in our city,” stated the release from Councilwoman Ann O'Brien's office.
The initiative was set to go to the council for a vote last month but was continued to allow the Phoenix Parks Department time to review the program details.
“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," said O’Brien, who represents a district in northwest Phoenix.
"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.”
Not everyone agreed on the private security choice.
Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari said the $800,000 contract to outsource park security was “fiscally irresponsible."
She said the salaries of park rangers should be increased so the city is able to “hire people who are accountable to our city and can deliver the services our residents deserve.”
“I want to make something very clear: safety at our parks is a critical issue we have to address, and it is a top priority for me – but this proposal does not do that” Ansari said in a release. “And frankly, it’s a fake blanket of security some council members are trying to sell to our residents.
“Private security cannot cite anyone. They have no authority, and all they can do is call police.”