cans with spray paint and ladder near colorful graffiti on wall of building in city

Anthem is known by many as a safe residential place with low rates of crime. However, the master-planned community has seen an uptick in punishable offenses.

Over the last year, Anthem’s parks have been the site of increased incidents involving vandalism, graffiti and property damage at the suspected hands of teenagers taking out their pandemic-related boredom. 

To combat the bad behavior, the Anthem Community Council Board of Directors approved the implementation of the “Resident & Guest Violation and Penalty Protocol” during a recent meeting.

This approved protocol is basically a guideline that allows the community to enforce its bylaws “consistently” when an offense occurs, executive director Terry Mullarkey said in an interview with The Foothills Focus.

He hopes its implementation will help residents understand “it could get bad if they don’t take care of their kids or themselves,” he said.

Mullarkey and Dave Fermoile, director of programs, introduced the measure which outlines different penalties based on the number of committed offenses. 

This protocol contains “nothing new,” he explained. The community’s bylaws were “just restated so that they’re more easily understood as levels of offenses.”

The first offense comes with a verbal warning and a “note on account,” it states. 

A second offense results in removal from the facility or amenity as well as a corresponding incident report. 

If deemed necessary, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be contacted which can bring forth formal charges. 

For kids, a second offense will also result in a phone call home to parents.

A third offense brings forth a $100 fine as well as suspension from all community programs, activities and facilities for a period of 30 to 60 days.  

A fourth offense can cause an extended suspension period as well as a significant number of fines.

“It’s not like we want to do this, but if it’s causing vandalism to our parks, then it’s not fair for the rest of the residents. They have to pay for the repairs of one particular individual or one particular kid.” 

Anthem’s youth are not the only ones to blame. An unidentified Anthem man’s recent offense resulted in a call to MCSO as well as a 30-day suspension period, Mullarkey said, not wanting to go into further detail.

The protocol draft was sent to the community’s official attorney who issued final approval. It was then formally published and presented to the public during the meeting.

“The initial results have been good,” Mullarkey said. The council has seen a “significant improvement” since its staff started calling parents four months ago, Mullarkey said. 

“I don’t think that the parents realize what their kids are doing at the park.”

Once parents receive a copy of their child’s incident report with corresponding photos of the offense, they usually sit down and have a conversation, “which is what we wanted them to do,” Mullarkey said.

Most juvenile offenders stop the tomfoolery after the first phone call home. 

But then soon after, “some other group will get into trouble,” he added. “It tends to repeat itself.”

The community’s maintenance personnel are “constantly” replacing and repairing various things in the park, Mullarkey said, mentioning damaged electrical outlets and overhead awnings. 

If someone is caught in the act, they will be expected to reimburse the cost of the damage, he said. 

The council has also taken other measures to mitigate potential offenses like hiring additional security as well as installing more security cameras and LED lights in problem areas. 

Public safety is “very near and dear to my heart,” he said, adding that Anthem is statistically one of the safest places he’s seen.

 “It’s not to say that we don’t have crime, but little crimes start little, and if left unattended, they grow into bigger crimes.”

“Our goal here is just protecting Anthem.”

During that same meeting, the board also approved a measure to adjust signage at several community parks to address the recent passage of Proposition 207 in November. 

The park’s sign already includes rules forbidding after-hour parking, unleashed pets, portable grills as well as alcohol. It also states, “No smoking,” however soon it will also say “or drug use” directly below.

This change reflects the council’s “commitment to drug-free amenities,” official information states. 

The new signs will be installed within the next several weeks, according to Kristi Northcutt, senior director of community relations. 

The majority of the signs will simply replace existing signs that stand at the entrance of two Anthem Parks. Only one new sign will be installed.

Three signs at Community Park will be changed out as well as one at Opportunity Way Park. The additional new sign will be located at the entrance of Liberty Bell Park. 

While this wasn’t a big change, the board felt it was important to take that “extra little step to ensure that people understand that it’s not going to be allowed in our parks or amenities,” Northcutt said. 

She added that there haven’t been many instances of people smoking or drinking alcohol in the community’s parks.

“We have the occasional smoker in the park,” she said, however adding that park patrol is trained to remind people that Anthem’s parks are a “smoke-free amenity.”

“Most people are compliant,” she said, adding that she doesn’t anticipate this being a major problem in the future. 

“There are no major issues, it’s just being a proactive community.”

“It’s just like all of the other communities, this is a little bit new,” she said about Proposition 207. “We have to take it as it comes and see.”

“We anticipate and hope that it will be a smooth process.”

—Staff writer Sarah Donahue

can be reached at sdonahue@timespublications.com