Old Town safety at center of Scottsdale meeting

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The city of Scottsdale is looking at updating its safety ordinances after two unrelated stabbings at one Old Town bar within a six-month period.

The first stabbing at Martini Ranch happened in January. Former Arizona State University football player Tyrice Thompson was working as a bouncer. He was stabbed five times and died several days later. Ian MacDonald, the 26-year-old  man accused of stabbing Thompson to death, pleaded not guilty and was released on a $75,000 cash bond.

The second incident happened a month ago. A man was stabbed while trying to leave the bar. He survived his injuries. Police later arrested Simon Lewis, 29, in connection with that stabbing.

While unrelated, the two stabbings taken together focused the spotlight on the brewing problem of safety in Old Town Scottsdale.

"The two incidents at Martini Ranch in the last six months, although isolated, demonstrate the need to improve safety in Scottsdale's bars and nightclubs," Mayor Jim Lane said after the second stabbing. "We are working collaboratively with our business community toward that end."

Many area business owners are adamant that something needs to be done.

"I want to see public safety increased," Bill Crawford, one of those owners, said, ticking off items on his fingers. "We need more boots on the ground in downtown Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Police Department is understaffed and underfunded.

"We need lighting in the bar district," he continued. "We need control of our noise ordinance. And we need to stop the rubber stamp of every single bar applicant that goes before the mayor and Council and gets approved."

"I just would like the city to be held accountable," another business owner agreed. "If they're allowing these bars and restaurants and nightclubs to get these licenses to allow so many people to be in the area, something has to be done to protect the businesses that are not entertainment oriented."

This is where revisions to the city's ordinances and the creation of the Public Safety Plan Ordinance come into play.

As part of the proposed changes, certain kinds of business will be required "to file, follow and keep current a Public Safety Plan" that will be approved or denied by the city's police chief.

The new Public Safety Plan Ordinance defines several types of business that will need to create a safety plan:

  • Age verification is requested for admittance;
  • Provide live entertainment;
  • Provide a DJ;
  • Provide an adult service as defined in Section 16-237;
  • A teen dance center as defined in Section 16-391;
  • Or utilize a promoter.

The proposed ordinance also lays out requirements for staffing, as well as training and appearance of security personnel. In addition, it mandates the hiring of off-duty police officers in certain situations.

"That local ordinance contains many things we believe will improve safety at bars and nightclubs throughout Scottsdale: it will require certain staffing levels and training for security personnel, the mandatory hiring of off-duty police officers in certain situations, as well as a written public safety plan subject to review and approval by the Scottsdale police chief," Lane explained last month.

Crawford believes this issue is as much about the city's reputation as it is about safety.

"Scottsdale invested 50 years in developing a quality brand that's known all over the world," he said. "We're destroying it in a manner of months if we don't get control of the situation ...."

The city is inviting the public to offer their input on the proposed ordinance at a meeting Wednesday morning. It's the second of two such meetings.

Wednesday's meeting starts at 10 a.m. at the Scottsdale Police Department District 3 Community Room, 9065 E. Via Linda.

Click here to read the proposed ordinance. (PDF file will open in new window.)