Phoenix District 1 Councilmember Ann O’Brien hosted a community breakfast Aug. 27 at the DoubleTree Hilton at MetroCenter to cover her work during her first 100 days in office.
She was joined by other city officials who gave an update on crime, transportation and outreach programs.
“It’s great to see all your wonderful, smiling faces this morning. It’s been way too long since this group has been able to get together. So I am so excited that we were able to do that this morning,” O’Brien said to start the discussion.
The councilmember started her first term in mid-April of this year. She was born and raised within District 1, is an ASU alum and has been heavily involved in the community.
Before stepping into politics, she was elected as a Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board member in 2014, reelected in 2018 and serves as the governing board president.
The Phoenix City Council District 1 spans from New River Road on I-17 to West Northern Avenue, as far west as 67th Avenue and as far east as North Seventh Street in some parts of the district.
“When I started my term in mid-April, I already knew the four focus areas I wanted to work on: public safety, economic development, infrastructure improvements and fostering community engagement,” O’Brien said.
“These four focus areas are the pillars of my 100-day action plan, and I want to share with you how that action plan is being implemented and present the steps we’ve taken during my first 100 days. I heard from many people about the desires to have a better quality of life in Phoenix, and I believe my action plan is a roadmap that reflects what you all want in your community.”
Brochures were provided upon entry that had a detailed description O’Brien’s District 1 accomplishments, along with helpful resources.
O’Brien said she spent her first 100 days speaking with and listening to stakeholders, communities, block watches, businesses, police officers, firemen and other council members. This helped her foster relationships around Maricopa County, so they can work together.
After her initial address, the councilmember left to attend the funeral of Phoenix police officer Matthew Hefter, who died due to medical complications.
Other speakers were Lisa Huggins, of neighborhood services department and the Phoenix Cares project; Dustin Daft, real estate manager for QuikTrip; William Wickers, commander of the Cactus Park Precinct and Darren Viner, commander of the Black Mountain Precinct.
Huggins has worked for the city of Phoenix as a neighborhood specialist for about 26 years and transitioned to join the Phoenix Cares Program last year.
“Phoenix Cares was created to look at those encampments we see all over the city and see what we can do as a city to very quickly help the individual first and foremost, get that outreach to those individuals so we can help try to get them off the street,” Huggins said. “The second task is doing whatever we can to get it (the encampment) cleaned up as quickly as possible.”
Cactus Wren neighborhood Block Watch members asked questions about issues regarding homeless people’s private property, stolen carts and delayed response times. Huggins said the program is only 3 years old and is still growing and evolving.
QuikTrip’s Daft spoke about the company’s efforts to deter vandalism, theft and loitering.
“We installed riprap, big rocks people don’t like to stand on and that are harder to stand on, you might turn an ankle,” he said.
“We don’t want anybody to get hurt, but it helps keep people from hanging out. We’re looking into different types of trees to go on our property, the kind that you don’t want to hangout and lean against. Again, we don’t want anybody to get hurt, but if we can move them along, that’s good. We’ve been installing more and more ‘no trespassing’ signs on our stores.”
He discussed other changes such as removing side door entrances and relaying out the interior so employees can better monitor for theft. They are also implementing an in-house security program, which means employees won’t have to wait on a third-party company to show up and can better identify trends and patterns of crimes by having the same person there consistently, according to Daft.
Phoenix Police Lt. Mark Schweikert, of the transit unit, said the department developed a partnership with QT given the propensity for crime at those locations. He also spoke about the massive transportation system in Phoenix, while adding that his department only has 16 people due to staffing shortages, They can’t cover the whole city.
“My goal as lieutenant of the transit unit is to make public transportation in the city of Phoenix the safest in America,” Schweikert said. “At any given time, I have 250 buses in motion, 17 miles of light rail going through the city of Phoenix, which is going to increase to 26 miles, and I have 4,000 bus stops in the city of Phoenix.”
The department works with community partners and analyzes the current issues to try to prevent them. Schweikert said the deterrence strategies put in place by QT have already shown positive results in some areas.
The Black Mountain Precinct’s Viner also acknowledged the staffing shortage and said the city is offering perks to try to encourage applicants.
“I think everybody is facing staffing issues,” Viner said.
“The Phoenix PD is no different in this political climate, and the social narrative of what’s happening with law enforcement makes it very difficult to hire… so, the city council has authorized a signing bonus for new officers of $7,500. If you know folks who want to be police officers, encourage them with that and hopefully that’ll help to get more people through the door.”
While staffing is low, the Cactus Park Precinct’s Wickers said crime has been on the rise. He reported an increase in violent crimes and traffic fatalities. Commanders of the Cactus Park and Black Mountain precincts described major crimes.
Wickers said the FBI joined Phoenix PD in bringing down a cash-for-gold location that had about $1 million to $1.6 million in stolen goods. Viner reported a Sunglasses Hut that was robbed of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise.
The general concluding statement of each speaker was that they encourage feedback — good or bad. The police commanders encouraged people to go to the Phoenix PD’s website, find their neighborhood and look for their community action officers who can address specific issues in that area.
O’Brien said they will continue to have community meetings, switching from the northern to southern parts of the district every month to ensure everyone is heard and can easily receive information. For information about future meetings or to sign up for a District 1 newsletter, visit phoenix.gov/district1. For a list of community resources, go to 211arizona.org.