Tempe police take stroll down Mill Avenue

New program designed to help department forge community connections

 by Sam Good
 published on Friday, February 9, 2007

Bettina Hansen / THE STATE PRESS
AFTERNOON WALK: Tempe Police Officer J.J. Arredondo arrests a man on Mill Avenue Thursday afternoon. During the busy lunch hour on Mill Avenue, Tempe police officers get off of their bikes and patrol on foot.

After patrolling Mill Avenue for almost two years, Officer J.J. Arredondo of Tempe Police hit the bricks of downtown Tempe in a different way Thursday - on foot.
Arredondo was on duty as part of the Tempe Police Department's new Mill Avenue foot patrol, a group of officers who walk the downtown shopping district of Tempe in an effort to become better connected with the community.
"There's no question about it, you definitely connect more with the people down here [when on foot]," Arredondo said. "I'm more apt to stop and just talk to them than when I'm on my bicycle. I'm more likely to go into a business and say hi."
After eight years of officers patrolling downtown on bikes, Tempe Police Cmdr. Dave Humble said officers began walking the area late last month.
"We are trying to address some issues down there that foot patrol can deal with better than the bike officers," Humble said. "Right now, the plan is to keep the officers on foot for several months and we'll see about making it a permanent beat."
Currently, one bike officer locks up his or her bike every weekday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to walk the Mill Avenue District - between Rio Salado and University drives north to south, and Farmer to College avenues east to west.
Wednesday was Arredondo's first day on the foot patrol beat, and he spent the afternoon introducing himself to local business owners and describing the program being implemented by Tempe police.
He began a conversation with Terah Nassos, the owner of Halo, an accessories boutique on Mill Avenue.
"We are implementing a pilot program of a walking beat on Mill [Avenue]," Arredondo said to Nassos. "We want to be friendly with business owners ... and then we can get to know each other better.
"Hopefully then, if you have a problem, even something smaller ... you can feel free letting us know what happened. That's kind of what we're here for."
Nassos said she likes the idea of officers patrolling on foot.
"I think just having a police officer walking up and down makes people feel comfortable," she said. "I wouldn't say being on foot versus a bike is any safer ... but it's just easier to connect with them more now that they are off the bike."
Other business owners agree that the
presence of foot patrol officers on Mill Avenue will be beneficial.
"This provides more of a sense of authority out there," said John Lettiere, a manager at Campus Corner and an ASU alumnus. "I think it's nice that they stop in, because it's a reminder that they are here. If I ever needed to run out there and ask one of them for help, I think this makes them more accessible."
The number of arrests made by foot patrollers since the program began was not available, but Sgt. Mike Horn of Tempe Police said the program is successful.
"This lets us know more about the community we're serving," Horn said. "The direct contact with the community is great."

Reach the reporter at samuel.good@asu.edu.

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