PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Nearly two dozen people were arrested at or near a Phoenix church for outstanding warrants and drugs. Some are concerned this is a symptom of a larger problem.
"Downtown Phoenix has really become quite an infestation for the criminal activity," said Karl Obergh.
He grew up homeless. He now lives in the Roosevelt Neighborhood, which includes some of downtown Phoenix, and he is a board member for Central Arizona Shelter Services.
"Homeless individuals usually do not choose to be homeless," Obergh said. "Transient individuals have some sort of mental health issue or addiction issue, and they sometimes and up choosing to be homeless."
According to a post on The Roosevelt Neighborhood Page from their Community Action Officer with Phoenix Police, there has been more and more criminal activity at Bible Baptist Church and nearby neighborhoods near Seventh Street and Oak. When officers showed up to Bible Baptist late last month, they arrested 20 people.
"What we're finding is there's a criminal element hiding within the homeless and transient population," Obergh said.
"Probation officers were able to go to that location because people listed that as their residence," said Sgt. Tommy Thompson with Phoenix Police.
He says in this probation sweep, 15 people were arrested on site, and five others were arrested in the area. Three had felony warrants, and eight had misdemeanor warrants.
"Keep in mind, when a person is on probation, that is an alternative to incarceration," Thompson said. "That allows the probation officer to come in and look and talk to you and, in this case, the officers knew there were several individuals who had warrants there. That's why they contacted the Phoenix police to be with them."
Thompson said 40 people were staying at the facility.
"They say we're not welcomed, because of what some have done," said Gate, a transient who has been staying at the area. "I'm worried about the ones I call family."
We tried calling and emailing the pastor, and also we stopped by, but the doors were locked when we stopped by Tuesday afternoon.
"They're trying to provide a safe place, a sheltered place," Obergh said.
He added there needs to be a long-term solution for a short-term problem.
"What do we do, if we can resolve that, we'll be the heroes of the United States," Obergh said.