City of Phoenix taking down some bus shelters following spike in crime

Arizona’s Family Investigates has learned several bus shelters have been taken down, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 8:45 PM MST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2022 at 9:52 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The City of Phoenix continues to move forward with expanding and improving public transportation by allocating more than $30 billion to do it over the next couple of decades. Part of that plan involves creating more bus stops and shelters and shielding riders from the elements. Arizona’s Family Investigates has learned several bus shelters have been taken down, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Arizona’s Family Investigates shot a video at a bus shelter on 28th Drive near Cactus Road around 11 a.m. last week. You see a man hand a woman money, she checks it, and then the guy appears to take something from a bag on the ground. A former Phoenix police officer said it’s consistent with a drug deal.

“This corner is horrible,” Dominique Frey, a bus rider, said. Frey isn’t surprised. We spoke with her at a bus stop around the corner. “I don’t feel very great about it, but I have to go to work so I can’t just avoid the corner,” Frey said.

Phoenix police said they’d made 28 drug arrests on the northeast corner of Cactus and 28th Drive in the last three months. Incidents like the one in this video and calls from concerned neighbors led the city to remove the bus shelter at this location along with two others nearby. We asked if Frey feels safer waiting for the bus now that the shelter is gone. “I really, I mean it’s easier to tell if anyone is coming up behind me now, that’s nice,” Frey responded.

The city said removing one of those shelters costs $500. Since January, they’ve taken down nine of them to the tune of $4,500. At the same time, new shelters continue going up across the city. It’s all part of the Phoenix Transportation 2050 Plan. According to that plan, each shelter can cost as much as $16,000, and the city wants to install 400 more by 2026.

The city declined Arizona’s Family Investigates request for an interview to explain the apparent contradiction, instead referring us to Phoenix Police Department. “The common complaint is people consuming fentanyl in public and it’s that second hand smoke,” Lt. Mark Schweikert, who oversees the Department’s Transit Unit, said. “The removal of a bus shelter is temporary and we’re looking at solutions to help improve the area,” he continued.

Lt. Schweikert said removing a shelter is a last resort. First, they try to improve lighting and change the bench for chairs. They also consult neighbors and look at crime data. “In particular, where they’ve been removed, the ridership has been able to feel safer,” Lt. Schweikert said. Arizona’s Family Investigates asked what this would mean for areas with more crime and, ultimately, what that would mean for those communities. “Well, going back to we’re talking about 9 out of 4100,” Lt. Schweikert said.

According to the city’s website, there are 4,000 bus stops, but only 2,800 have shelters. Still, those removed represent only a small fraction of the total. Enforcement is also a factor. Although the transit unit is supposed to have 23 detectives and officers, the department said they’re six investigators short. Even so, Phoenix PD said they’d made 589 drug-related arrests this year.

“We come here and they’re using drugs, there’s stuff everywhere. It’s horrible,” Alexis Bachris, a bus rider, said. Arizona’s Family Investigates asked if removing the shelter made her feel safer. “Not really, just I have to stand more,” Bachris responded.

Police said those bus shelters that have been taken down are repurposed and moved to another stop. They explained that the move is temporary but couldn’t say when they would be put back up or what metrics they would use to determine when that should happen.