Sunnyslope neighbors working together to curb blight, crime

[image] Some residents in the area of 19th and Dunlap avenues said the new light rail extension has hurt the neighborhood. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

People living near 19th and Dunlap avenues said their slice of heaven isn't so nice these days. They say they don't feel safe in their own neighborhood, and they're doing something about it. 

"It was a quiet community," said George Immerso. "Now, it's changed quite a bit."

Immerso is the HOA president in his 55+ community. He said he even avoids running errands around there now. 

"The minute you get out of your car, you get accosted. People asking for money, cigarettes," Immerso said.

And he said his backyard, which backs up to the canal, is no longer a safe haven. 

"I very rarely come here," he said. "You're constantly being nagged for water, money."

Immerso said they started a block watch, and he hopes that can make a difference.

"I think light rail has caused some issues here, mostly with the transients," Immerso said. 

Valley Metro sent us a statement saying:

Providing a safe, secure and reliable transit service is a top priority for Valley Metro. Light rail ordinances and policies were created to protect the safety, security and health of all riders. Security officers regularly patrol the system and Valley Metro partners with the local police departments to provide an additional layer of security and enforcement.

At Wednesday night's Sunnyslope Resource Meeting, the issues of crime,  homelessness, and blight were addressed.

Phoenix city council member Debra Stark sent us a statement saying:

We held the Sunnyslope Resource Meeting last night in response to concerns I heard in block watch meetings this fall regarding homeless, blight, and crime in general in the areas of the Royal Palm and Sunnyslope neighborhoods.  The comments we had received were not specifically from 19th Avenue and Dunlap. 

Councilman Valenzuela and I decided it would be beneficial to the community as a whole to bring everyone together and hear from our city departments (Police/Communications/Transit Police, Human Services, Neighborhood Services Department, Parks and Recreation, Streets, and Public Works), regarding the policies and plans we currently have in place and share the resources and numbers to call to report crime, blight, and any other issues that residents may face.  Our city departments work closely together already and we wanted to share that information with the community.

I know we have a vested and great community in the area.  We had over 120 attendees last night and did hear concerns about the area of 19th Avenue and Dunlap as well.  I will continue to work with our Phoenix Police Department and other necessary city departments to address our residents’ concerns. 
I look forward to continuing our positive community partnerships in the area with organizations like 19 North coordinated by Shannon McBride, Honor Health, and our local businesses and community members to address concerns and ensure our community feels safe. 

And Phoenix police sent us a statement saying:

There was a community meeting last night.  During the meeting, 19th North discussed their interest in working with Neighborhood Services Department in finding ways to provide assistance to local residents.  There was also a discussion with local businesses on how to address trespassing, which accounts for many calls for service in the area of 19th Ave and Dunlap.  The Phoenix Police Department is committed to working with organizations within the community that will provide positive and enduring changes to the quality of life for all Phoenix residents.

Now, several community members are working together to clean up the area.

"I would say everyone says there's too much crime, and there's more than there used to be, and it doesn't feel safe anymore," said Shannon McBride with the Open Door Fellowship Church.

She is also the chair of 19 North, a collaboration between churches, charities, the city and even larger businesses to clean up the area and make it safe and family-friendly for everyone.

For example, they have a site for a future community garden. They're also holding a homelessness summit and employment conference, and meeting with local investors and developers to try and convince them to move in. 

"Big one is cleaning up the area. That's going to really help with crime," McBride said. "Chaos brings chaos, order brings order. So we have street cleanups going, alley cleanups going."

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