Letter: Tempe Police fails ASU community

In response to the June 16 article "ASU student safety task force focuses on Tempe:"

“We were not prepared as a police department in Tempe for these high-rise apartment complexes.” Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff, The State Press, ASU student safety task force focuses on Tempe, June 16, 2014

Chief Tom Ryff was commenting on the report issued by ASU’s Task Force on Student Safety concerning the crime, violence and mayhem surrounding the Tempe campus.

An area Tempe and ASU police refer to as the “loud party corridor,” a term that minimizes the seriousness of the criminal activity and magnitude of the crime problems in the geographic region that surrounds ASU and includes pretty much all of Tempe that’s north of Broadway Road.

Murders of college students, sexual assaults, aggravated assaults and robberies are all too common. Tempe continues to have nearly double the crime rate of Scottsdale and one that is 50 percent higher than Mesa’s. Tempe has more officers per resident, plus ASU police to back them up, spends more money on policing and is at or near the top of crime and police spending across the metro Phoenix area according to the Arizona Republic.

The Tempe Police Department has long touted its “intelligence-led policing” model and the department’s multi-million dollar Strategic Planning, Analysis and Research Center, known by the acronym SPARC. Tempe also boasts of its relationship and involvement with the Mesa Police Department based regional East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center and the state fusion center known as Arizona Counter Terrorism Intelligence Center. Yet, the police chief said they were “not prepared for these high rise complexes?” I guess he didn’t see the several high-rises outside the window of his office at police headquarters and the ones along the route he’d travel to Apache Boulevard police sub-station or his favorite coffee shop.

It’s difficult for me to imagine with the police chief and his multi-million dollar command staff of over a dozen ranking officers, lawyers and civilian advisers, they couldn’t have figured out as the high-rise apartments went up over the last half dozen years there was going to be higher density and its well know that density, especially in an environment that’s known to attract criminal activity, is going to create more problems. For the police management team that just got sizable raises to miss what was plainly in front of their faces is inexcusable.

With Geographic Information Systems, GIS, being one of the cornerstones of intelligence led policing and the available knowledge and experience available from other cities and police agencies with high-rise building such as Phoenix, it looks to me like the Tempe PD think tank got caught napping.

ASU’s Decision Theater and its long list of resources, including GIS, is a perfect example of a tool Tempe could’ve used to plan for the future and not get caught with its pants down. ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice has been very effective in partnering with Mesa and Phoenix to reduce crime.

While the majority of the failure falls clearly in Ryff’s lap, as a father of an ASU student, I’m increasingly distressed the University hasn’t taken a more aggressive posture in combating the crime problems that often target their students. Committees and glossy reports are nice for spectators, but ASU has been tolerant too long in waiting for the Tempe Police Department and City Hall to get its policing and public safety act together. In the last four years eight students who have been murdered or died a tragic death in the “loud party corridor.”

Do Tempe and ASU officials need to bring about serious changes at their respective police departments where both police chiefs have become fixtures? Both agencies have failed to deliver effective solutions to the well-known crime problems that have gone on for far too long.

Why should the latest report with its recommendations give any better outcomes than all the other purported solutions that have been delivered over the years?

Ryff’s admission that his department failed to see a bigger crime problem coming should be a serious wake-up call to officials that the police may not be doing the best job they can when it comes to the sea of crime that surrounds ASU and consumes downtown Tempe.

Bill Richardson

ASU BAE 1974

Retired Master Police Officer

Criminal Intelligence Supervisor

Mesa Police Department

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