Gilbert Town Council members will look at giving park rangers the authority to ticket rule breakers later this summer.
Police have reported an increase in calls at one of Gilbert's largest and most popular parks in recent months. Calls to Freestone Park over the last year ranged from minor reports of suspicious activity to an armed robbery and drug deals.
The recent upswing in criminal and other nuisance activity has pushed neighbors to ask for an increased police presence.
Town officials say a park ranger is stationed at the park nearly full time. The problem, some say, is that Gilbert's park rangers have no real authority to enforce laws or park rules.
"It's like a parent who has no consequences to give a child," said Bobbi Smith, who sits on Gilbert's parks and recreation advisory board.
Smith, along with Councilwoman Linda Abbott, is pushing to beef up rangers' authority. Abbott has arranged for the topic to be discussed during a council retreat scheduled for August.
To Abbott, empowering rangers to issue citations could free up regular police officers often called to the park to deal with nuisance-type issues.
Apache Junction established city ordinances in 2003 that essentially turned park rules into law and gave park rangers the authority to citeoffenders.
"We only cite under those ordinances," said Kelly Martin, park ranger supervisor for Apache Junction. "We don't cite under Arizona Revised Statues."
To Martin, expecting rangers to enforce park rules or stop criminal activity without any ticketing authority won't work.
"You'll have chaos," he said. "Yes, they can patrol, but what can they do?"
Martin said Apache Junction, which has four parks and 1,600 acres of state trust land, has seen criminal activity decrease 35 percent to 40 percent in the last four years.
"If you put some consequences behind it ... then yeah, you're going to have it a whole lot better," Martin said.