Scottsdale police officer Brent Patterson pulled his car into a parking lot at Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard and drove slowly up to a nightclub in full hip-hop swing at 10 p.m. on a recent Friday.
"This is our major spot," Patterson said as he drove near the Buzz, 10345 N. Scottsdale Road. "Seems like we get a lot of fights out of this place."
Scottsdale police, who already heavily patrol the city’s hopping downtown night scene about five miles to the south, say more and more their resources are being reassigned for temporary duty in the area of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard.
Over the past year, police were called 400 times for incidents at or near the eight nightclubs and bars in the area, said John Cocca, Scottsdale’s deputy chief of police. Calls include unruly drunks, damaged cars, public urination, traffic collisions and fights.
"The number of calls for service that we are getting that specifically causes us to raise our eyebrows is the Buzz," he said.
The hip-hop nightclub, which is open only a few nights a week, had 270 calls for police service to its address last year, Cocca said. In comparison, the nightclub with the next highest number of police responses in that area logged 41 calls, he said.
Deputy city manager Ed Gawf said the number of calls alone is not conclusive evidence that the Buzz is a problem bar. But "it clearly is an indicator that we need to take a closer look," he said.
The manager and owner of the Buzz did not return repeated phone calls from the Tribune.
When police respond to the nightclub, typically it is for something taking place in the parking lot.
Most incidents inside the Buzz and other nightclubs are not reported to police because off-duty Maricopa County sheriff ’s deputies work at many of those businesses, though some bars, such as the Devil’s Martini, have private security. Off-duty deputies take reports and file them through the sheriff’s office, Patterson said.
Under state law, all establishments with a liquor license must report violence on their premises. The Buzz filed one such report with the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control in August, when a man was cut under the right eye in a fight with another man. The Buzz was not fined by the state agency for any violations in 2003, though it has been cited in previous years for infractions that include failing to report violence and serving alcohol to minors.
Scottsdale leaders have been taking a harder look at the growing nightclub industry and the costs tied to it, both in terms of city resources and the effect on businesses and landowners nearby.
Gawf said the city recently started requiring conditional use permits for any proposed bars, which means the owners have to get the City Council to approve comprehensive plans about the establishment’s parking, security, strategy for dealing with noise, etc.
"So, part of it would be that we can supply the required resources — police, sanitation or whatever — as well as to make sure it is not having a negative impact on other land uses," Gawf said.
The city also has created a new position — a night-time code enforcement officer — whose responsibilities include monitoring nightclubs and bars for compliance with municipal regulations, he said.
Then there is the law enforcement aspect. Police Chief Alan G. Rodbell has said an ongoing deployment study of his department should shed more light on how many patrol officers need be assigned to certain sections of the city.
Meanwhile, commanders of Scottsdale’s three police district have to borrow each other’s resources. For instance, Cocca said, the police department’s bicycle squad, typically assigned to the downtown and special events, has been spending more time in the Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard area at the request of that district’s police commander.
"It’s not as compact as the downtown (nightclub scene). But you still have to be sure we are providing the best public safety as possible," Cocca said.