Six Mesa residents, a police officer and two former prostitutes have joined forces to find long-term solutions to drugs and prostitution that proliferate along Main Street.
The task force, formed at a Mesa Grande Community Alliance meeting Tuesday night, is the next step in addressing residents’ growing concerns about prostitution and other crimes along Main Street from Country Club Drive to Tempe.
The group also asked for $50,000 in federal grant money to help motels work with police to combat drug dealers and prostitutes who conduct business there.
"We need to partner with the police force to formulate some long-term strategies," said the alliance’s cochairman, Dave Richins.
The task force will examine several ideas that were generated during a Nov. 30 meeting, when about 130 residents, business owners and church leaders met with police after a No v. 6 Tribune article reported an increase of prostitution in the area.
In response, police conducted several sting operations that targeted johns, and more stings are scheduled in the area over the next few months. In December, 39 men were arrested, but it could take a while before police see the effects.
"I wouldn’t say we’ve seen a decrease at this point," said Mesa Lt. Andy Alonzo. "We’ve seen a change in tactics primarily. It’s not so much a change in location, but they’re using motel rooms more."
Community leaders say it’s important for motel owners to participate in Mesa’s Crime Free Hotel/Motel program.
"They need to be taking a more thorough look at who they’re renting to and then being more vigilant about the people who are renting," Alonzo said. "That part alone would do a lot toward filtering out the people who are legitimate and those who want to use it for criminal activities."
Of the alliance’s $50,000 proposal, $12,000 would go directly to motels along Main Street that need funds to meet requirements under the program. The improvements include lighting, screening procedures and key controls.