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Laveen Residents Re-Launching Neighborhood Patrol

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(This article first appeared in the print edition of the South Mountain District News on March 7, 2016)

After a six-year hiatus, Laveen residents are relaunching this month a Phoenix Neighborhood Patrol to drive through multiple neighborhoods at least once a month in an effort to deter crime and report suspicious activity.

PNPs are partnerships between the Phoenix Police Department and residents who undergo at least four hours of training through the department. The patrols originated from Block Watches in 1984 as Block Watch on Patrol but quickly became separate action groups that assist police in reducing neighborhood crime.

“I think it makes the neighborhoods a better place,” said Officer Julie Egea, community programs sergeant for Maryvale-Estrella Precinct, which oversees police services in Laveen. “They really do make a difference. I don’t live in all the neighborhoods that I patrol. You guys bring things to our attention things that we wouldn’t necessarily see. You see things that aren’t normal in your neighborhood.”

Wendy Ensminger, president of the Laveen Association of HOAs, said the Laveen PNP volunteers are planning their first patrol this month.

“Our hope is to have at least five cars,” Ensminger said. “We will pick a night, and then go out for a couple of hours. Each car will have a map and a minimum of two people. We’ll have a navigator, driver and everyone will be connected by radio.”

Officer Angie Shuman, community programs officer for the precinct, said individuals who complete PNP training get magnets for their car doors, T-shirts and ID badges. “Our hope is that (the criminals) do see it as a deterrent because of all the eyes that are being vigilant.”

In the South Mountain Precinct, Officer Holly Dancy is point person for the PNP. She said that typical issues the neighborhood patrols report in her area are graffiti and suspicious activity.

Graffiti, suspicious cars, suspicious people who don’t seem to be the norm in the neighborhood — that’s the majority of the reports,” said Dancy, who joined the PNP program in July. “I don’t have annual stats, but every month the teams submit the hours they were out on the street.”

Dancy said she has observed multiple successes with PNP. For example, if the teams report that a particular address has a lot of people coming and going, or cars coming and going, at odd hours then she can turn over the information to a task force.

“We pass that along to our drug enforcement or neighborhood enforcement teams to work,” she said. “We’ve had numerous successes with that.”

The PNP training emphasizes being visible while avoiding confrontations. Training covers patrol procedures, observation skills, the 9-1-1 system, reporting techniques, confrontation avoidance, safety practices and Block Watch grants.

A rash of robberies in February, including an armed holdup of the Safeway gas station at the southeast corner of 51st Avenue and Baseline Road, sparked a lot of community concern, particularly on social media about crime in Laveen. “When crime happens in Laveen, word gets out quickly via multiple social media pages,” Ensminger said.

Community Action Officer Brandy Carter noted at a recent LA-HOA meeting, that police have targeted that intersection with a Neighborhood Enforcement Team. Although Carter did not provide statistics, she and Sgt. Egea both said violent crime in the area has decreased in the three months since the taskforce was assigned.

Ensminger is hopeful to see the same sort of results in property and neighborhood crimes when the PNP takes to the streets.

“The PNP members will know how to call in good information for the police to follow up with, whether it’s immediate or part of follow-up,” Ensminger said. “We are taught to be excellent observers of all information to provide the best leads and possibility of crimes getting solved.”

Phoenix police offer the trainings on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to Noon at the Mountain View Precinct’s Community Room, 2075 E. Maryland Ave, with the next training class set for March 12. Other classes are slated for May 14, July 16, Sept. 10 and Nov. 5.

To become a member of the Laveen PNP, residents must be at least 18 years old, possess a valid driver’s license or Arizona identification card and have completed the PNP training class.

“There’s nothing security-like about it, nothing vigilante about it,” Ensminger said. “They have to be certified and trained so they know what their rights and responsibilities are. All PNP members have to adhere to the rules and regulations that they are trained.”

In 2014 PNP members citywide logged over 27,000 miles and volunteered over 44,000 hours of their time to their neighborhood, according to the Phoenix Police web site.


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