Richardson: Tempe council candidates address methods to improve public safety - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: Tempe council candidates address methods to improve public safety

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 3:30 pm

With the upcoming Tempe City Council election I asked the five council hopefuls and two incumbents two questions about crime and policing costs.

1. As a council member would you do anything different to put Tempe on par with other East Valley cities when it comes fighting and reducing crime while cutting spending?

2. Or as a council member would you leave things as they are and stick with the status quo?

Only candidates Dick Foreman, Matt Papke and Lauren Kuby responded.

Foreman said, “Nothing should be a higher priority than supporting a safe Tempe that makes us not just feel safe, but be more secure. Crime stats demonstrate we have unique issues that challenge crime suppression and can inflate public safety spending.”

He’s proposing “safety by design” to counter poor planning that’s “created streets that can be unsafe and provide too many opportunities for mischief. Tempe needs professional urban planning to support crime suppression.”

He calls Tempe a “Tale of Two Cities.” A “Tempe by day, and Tempe by night” referring to how parts of Tempe can change to the detriment of law abiding citizens after dark.

Foreman is blunt about Tempe’s sometime’s strained relationship with ASU. “The interaction and coordination between ASU and Tempe remains an issue and the recent focus on improving law enforcement coordination remains essential. Code enforcement, too, remains disappointing. It’s too selective and there’s clearly not enough emphasis on the budget here. Policy design that does not properly consider public safety in every instance is a policy-risk at best, a policy failure most likely. The Tempe City Council also needs to take a hard look at policing costs and the public safety issues inherent with many of the downtown events. We can and must do better to put public safety first!”

Foreman’s “safety by design” concept is novel and his focus on “interaction” with ASU is long overdue. ASU is not the enemy, as some would have us believe.

Papke said, “Tempe needs to focus on local crime prevention. The police need to be in the neighborhoods. I have a program called “adopt a cop” that would identify neighborhoods that need more local engagement. Each neighborhood would work with a “beat cop” and adopt them. The officer would be responsible for keeping a pulse on the community and working to prevent crime. Proactive measures are the most important tools available to address criminal activity. “Why does Tempe have less officers on patrol today than 10 years ago and a budget that has increased significantly? Tempe has the highest crime and the highest cost per capita in the East Valley. This isn’t acceptable. It’s time to put the criminals on notice we are taking Tempe back.”

It’s no secret the Tempe PD is top heavy with command officers and short on cops on the street. Papke’s back to basics approach is on target.

Kuby fired away, “Because public safety absorbs a majority of our budget, we need to manage police resources in a responsible, sustainable, and transparent manner. There are no simple solutions to reducing crime or the costs of crime suppression, but Tempe can do better. We should not hesitate to explore the best practices of other cities and seek to shrink these numbers. Consideration needs to be given to the COMPSTAT (comparative statistics) police-management process, which originated in New York City and has evolved in Los Angeles, and many other cities across the US.COMPSTAT is a multilayered, dynamic system for managing police operations that integrates complex data and examines factors such as crime statistics, overtime, citizen complaints, and more. This process incorporates problem solving with accountability at all levels. COMPSTAT serves to engage residents, so that the community is viewed not as an adversary, but an active partner in a continually evolving process of reducing crime. City and University police could be brought together in a concerted, regional attempt to improve public safety. Examining crime and internal police department processes in a transparent, structured manner allows participants to devise strategies and tactics to solve problems, reduce crime, and ultimately improve quality of life for our residents”

Former Mesa Police Chief George Gascon brought COMPSTAT with him from LAPD in 2006. Since then Mesa has enjoyed serious reductions in crime and policing costs.

COMPSTAT works! Creating a Tempe PD/ASU Police regional COMPSTAT that involves community participation is innovative and forward thinking.

Foreman, Papke and Kuby did their homework.

The next election will tell if Tempe residents are content with the “status quo” or if they see a need for change.

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