More than 200 armed sheriff’s posse members and deputies are patrolling an 80-acre Maricopa County island in north Tempe 24 hours a day, seven days per week, officials said.
Bright orange signs line the streets, warning passersby that from now on, they are being watched by mobile and stationary surveillance cameras placed throughout an area along Scottsdale Road north of Loop 202.
The increased enforcement is designed to stop illegal dumping and other criminal activity, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Saturday.
"Anybody that violates the law is going directly to jail," Arpaio said. "There will be no tickets. We’ll be there as long as it takes that the people understand that there will be no more trash or anything else that has been occurring in this area."
Arpaio spoke at a news conference kicking off permanently increased enforcement activities, a week after he sent a chain gang to clean up trash in the area.
About 750 callers complain to the sheriff’s office every year about the island, Arpaio said, adding that such an amount of illegal activity is unusual because the area is so small.
Callers have complained about unauthorized dumping, unkempt and unsafe buildings, and illegal activities around adult-oriented businesses, including prostitution.
Mayor Hugh Hallman said the city appreciates efforts to rid the island of the "deleterious effects" of criminals, and illegal activity which may cross over Tempe’s municipal boundary.
"If you were here in the past month, you saw parts of construction materials . . . laid out over sidewalks and failure to comply with building codes," Hallman said. "It’s not safe for fire and police. They’re at risk in buildings that . . . might collapse."
County Supervisor Fulton Brock, R-District 1 of Chandler, Tempe and Queen Creek, said he hopes the county has finally found a permanent solution to blight on the island.
"We’re serious about cleaning up Maricopa County," Brock said. "In the past we’d clean up, but we’d come back a few weeks later and things were like they were before."
Warren LeSueur, president of LeSueur Car Company, 1109 E. Curry Road, on the island’s northern boundary, said he came to the news conference because he wants to see the area cleaned up. He also said he hasn’t had a lot of problems with criminal activity near his business, and he wonders whether the cleanup might be a way to ready the land to become part of Tempe.
"I think to a degree it makes me wonder if there are some other underlying factors, like annexation," LeSueur said.