Phoenix Police Cast Wide ‘NET’ Around GCU Campus
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
Students and staff may have noticed the police officers on bikes during Welcome Week. Or maybe they didn’t. The typically frantic event went off without any serious safety concerns.
The added law enforcement presence provided by Phoenix Police Cactus Park Precinct’s neighborhood enforcement team through the GCU Neighborhood Safety Initiative was seamless — the uniformed officers blending in with students, parents and campus security officers.
|PHOENIX POLICE INFO|
|For more on neighborhood enforcement and other aspects of Phoenix police involvement in west Phoenix, go to Cactus Park Precinct’s web page at http://www.phoenix.gov/police/precincts/cactuspark/index.html.|
Since Move-In, the Phoenix police NET officers continued to police around campus. But the patrol-based squad assigned to the “91” area in the Interstate 17 Canyon Corridor around GCU also operate in plainclothes and undercover, so they’re largely undetected during investigations.
Earlier this summer, GCU executives announced plans to donate $100,000 annually to help pay NET overtime through 2017 to support Phoenix police crime-suppression programs. Phoenix agreed to match the funds in an unprecedented private-public partnership, which police leaders and elected officials heralded as a blueprint for future neighborhood crime-suppression programs. The extra funding amounts to about 58 hours of added enforcement in the area each week.
Phoenix police Sgt. Kenny Laird, who oversees 91-area NET officers from Indian School Road to Bethany Home Road between Interstate 17 and 43rd Avenue, said neighborhood-enforcement officers are freed from responding to radio calls to serve as a sort of Swiss Army knife of law enforcement.
NET officers do everything from documenting graffiti to serving as decoys in undercover stings in investigations into prostitution or drugs. During busy patrol time periods, they may be called in to assist patrol officers who are scrambling over multiple violent calls. But ordinarily, they are focused on responding to the underlying issues that lead to complaints about crime or blight.
The Canyon Corridor has long shared the focus of cutting down on blighted properties and the potential for crime. Laird said prior grants helped fund overtime so NET officers could respond to specific complaints and crack down on crime in concentrated areas, such as many of the multifamily apartment complexes and extended-stay motels along Interstate 17.
Laird, a former cold-case homicide detective who used to coach soccer on GCU’s campus, said communication between the police department and University is greatly improved. He has an office at the Camelback Hall public safety office, linking GCU and Phoenix Police on a regular basis.
“It’s not that it was bad,” Laird said of the relationship between the University and police department in years past. “It just didn’t exist, really, other than a radio call or a phone call.”
Aside from his duties overseeing officers in the field, Laird said he and GCU security staff have looked to the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators for ideas on how to manage the campus-based end of neighborhood public safety.
GCU’s private security force of about 27 are the eyes and ears for Phoenix police investigators in many ways, being the first line of defense against security threats to the interior of campus.
Laird said GCU is now a member of IACLEA. As part of the campus law enforcement network, Laird said the public safety office is learning from larger universities about best-practice policies and procedures for defending students on campus.
Better integration of technology, such as the Rave emergency text message system, will help mitigate serious campus security breaches, he said.
“Basically, this is the start of the road to accreditation,” Laird said. “Whether we go to a sworn (agency model), or a special privileges type, or just stay as a private security agency — we can get accredited either way.”
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.