19North Community Alliance launches unconventional security patrols

PHOENIX – People who live in part of North Phoenix, as well as business owners, put their money where they say.

After noticing what they call unusual activity over the past few years, the group has found an unconventional way to help stave off crime.

ABC15 takes a closer look at how and what effect this has on an understaffed police department.

“We could tell there was just an increase in drug-related crime in our community,” said Shannon McBride of 19North Community Alliance.

McBride wants to change where she lives, but she’s not just hoping for it, she’s working on it.

“Let’s see how can we become safer as a community, by safer I also mean the people who are suffering on our streets also deserve to be safer,” McBride added.

McBride leads the 19North Community Alliance.

Recently, the alliance partnered with more than 50 businesses and a few apartment complexes to hire private security guards to patrol Northern Avenue between Interstate 17 and 17th Avenue.

“We are constantly on the move. We are addressing the issues we are having right now and not waiting for them to get worse and worse and become a bigger problem,” said Captain Hank Mann of Omega Protective. Services.

Melissa Sledge owns a business in the half-mile stretch where Omega Protectives Services patrols.

“We’re a favorite meeting place for people to hang out,” Melissa Sledge said.

Omega Protective Services patrols the area 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“My office looks just outside the front window, so I see pretty much everything that’s going on,” Sledge added.

Sledge’s business, Sledge Concrete Coatings, is next door to a methadone clinic.

People, she says, often wander onto her property, which leads her to call the police.

“The poor police department, no matter how hard they try, there just aren’t enough of them to come out and answer those calls. But, to me, it’s urgent,” Sledge added.

And, for the most part, McBride thinks that’s what makes it work.

“So we were able to make those local phone calls rather than going to our police and it took some of those phone calls off their busy plate, so they could deal with the more serious crimes or dangerous crimes” , added McBride.

McBride tells ABC15 that businesses up and down Northern Avenue are experiencing problems, from people wandering and sleeping at bus stops, to people begging and loitering.

“That’s what we were noticing and it was scary, especially as a woman going to get gas or whatever, it didn’t feel safe,” McBride added.

During the trial of the collaboration in April, May and June of this year, Phoenix police responded to 164 calls for service. Last year, during these same months, the police responded to 204 calls.

The sense of security, Sledge believes, is worth the $3,000 a year she pays.

“(It’s) tremendous value to me for my employees, for our own safety, for the value of our property, for our customers and the clientele that comes in,” Sledge added.

In addition to businesses and some apartment owners, Phoenix police come to support the alliance.

“In my 23 years, what I’ve seen is that a lot of things seem to be connected, whether it’s crime or other activities and issues in the neighborhood,” said the lieutenant of Phoenix police Nick Jimenez.

But even supporters wonder if the new patrols solve the crime problem or simply move it elsewhere.

“You have the question of where the problems sometimes go? Do they spread? Do they go a block south or a mile south,” Lt. Jimenez said.

McBride shares these concerns.

“We say you can’t, zero tolerance for crime, in my community. I hope other communities do the same. It’s the best I can do,” McBride added.

The 19North Community Alliance’s long-term plan is to expand private security patrols at Dunlap and Glendale Avenues to cover an entire district.

But what about displaced people?

ABC15 has another report, Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., detailing how the alliance is responding to this concern.

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