By the numbers: The dollars and cents of Paradise Valley public safety

The Paradise Valley Municipal Court is one of the busiest in the state of Arizona, with each clerk handling about 10,000 case filings per year. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Just off Lincoln Drive, near the eastern borders of Paradise Valley is the state’s sixth largest municipal court.

The Paradise Valley Municipal Court, due to its court filings, continues to be ranked as the sixth largest municipal court compared to the other 81 in the state, according to Court Director Jeanette Wiesenhofer.

Earlier this spring as the Town Council and town staff prepared for its annual budget adoption, the elected leaders held a special meeting to review and discuss department needs prior to final adoption. During this time, presentations from the town’s fire, police and court officials gave an inside look at the happenings occurring in Paradise Valley’s public safety sector.

The municipal court is at 6517 E. Lincoln Drive; while the fire station is at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive; and the police station is at 6433 E. Lincoln Drive.

The town’s total adopted budget for fiscal year 2019-20 is $68.3 million, which public safety sees a budget share of $15,908,012.

Court services

The town’s court remains busy, and is expected to see a slight increase in case filings this fiscal year, according to Ms. Wiesenhofer, which is related to an increase in officer-written citations.

“With a high case volume, it produces a very busy work load for our staff,” Ms. Wiesenhofer said. “We continue to have the highest case filings per clerk ratio in the state — roughly handling 10,000 cases per clerk.”

In 2018, the court saw a total of 49,730 filings which included:

  • Criminal cases: 290;
  • Civil cases: 49,426; and
  • Protective orders: 14.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Ellen Andeen, Ms. Wiesenhofer said Paradise Valley is fortunate to have more civil traffic cases than criminal cases, as a civil case is much less time consuming for the court employees.

The court filings have increased dramatically since 2015, statistics provided by the local court show, with additional estimated growth in 2019. The total number of filings by year is:

  • 2015: 26,128
  • 2016: 54,472
  • 2017: 49,302
  • 2018: 49,730
  • 2019 estimation: 52,442.

In total, for fiscal year 2017-18, the court saw 11,765 court visitors; 2,662 courtroom proceedings; 22,148 payments and 18,679 phone calls.

In addition to the steady stream of growth in the court, Ms. Wiesenhofer points out that growth is causing the need for more resources in other areas: Interpreters.

“We have seen a high demand for defendants needing interpreters in criminal proceedings, in civil traffic hearings. Overall, a 57% increase for this fiscal year,” she said.

Police Chief Peter Wingert says increased patrol presence in town has resulted in less crime and less vehicle collisions. (File photo)

The increase is in Spanish, Farsi and Mandarin.

On the fiscal side, the court’s General Fund budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year is going to be 5% more than the prior fiscal year, based on changes in personnel and supplies and services, Ms. Wiesenhofer said.

The court operates with seven full-time employees, three part-time contract security officers and 10 volunteer judges.

Ms. Wiesenhofer says the court anticipates bringing on additional judges this fiscal year.

“I think our court system, if I understand how you guys have run it and put it together, is using technology really efficiently and effectively,” Councilwoman Julie Pace said.

“I know that’s been at-risk at the state legislature in some of the ways they were trying to change it. I think it’s an example of really the spirit of what our state legislature, if they thought about it, is less people, efficient use of technology and you’re a shining example on benchmarks of hitting 10,000 (cases) per clerk by using that technology.”

Police Chief Peter Wingert oversees the four funds that make up the police department’s budget. (File photo)

Police services

Following Ms. Wiesenhofer’s presentation, Police Chief Peter Wingert went over his department’s budget needs, which included some results of department efforts.

The police department includes four different budgets, which Mr. Wingert oversees. They are: Administration, communications, patrol and investigations.

Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety — also known as DDACTS — is a program that essentially creates a more visible police presence in what has been identified as the town’s “hot spot.” Mr. Wingert started the program in town in 2017.

Through the gathering and analysis of four years of data, the police department was able to identify hundreds of theft or traffic accidents in this specific 2.5-square-mile zone, around Tatum Boulevard and Lincoln Drive.

Mr. Wingert says the theory behind DDACTS is that criminals drive to commit their crimes.

“So we implemented DDACTS in that area, concentrating heavily on that area to make a lot of traffic stops, turn on the lights, and try to deter people that shouldn’t be there from being there,” Mr. Wingert said.

Mr. Wingert says police department’s decrease in motor vehicle collisions and crime is directly related to the program.

In 2018, there was an 8% decrease in FBI Part 1 crimes; more than a 13% decrease in motor vehicle collisions; and nearly 20% decrease in felony and misdemeanor arrests over a three-year average.

FBI Part 1 crimes include homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, theft and arson.

“In 2016 when I presented the strategic plan to you, my goal was to get motor vehicle collisions under 200. I think that at that time, you kind of looked at me — I remember a look from one of you in particular saying ‘good luck with that as traffic counts go up,’” Mr. Wingert explained.

“Year before last we had a decrease of 12%, last year we had a decrease of 13% and we had a total of 183 traffic collisions. So, it’s a tribute to the officers being out there and being visible — you see a whole lot more black-and-whites out there than you did before. That’s something that’s been requested from the residents that we’ve been able to get out.”

Mr. Wingert says the department has the same number of officers, but it appears there may be more because they’re focused in busier and more public areas of town.

Changes in the patrol budget includes:

  • A second year of body worn cameras contract for $23,000;
  • Mobile video camera replacement for $54,000;
  • Variable message board trailer with RADAR for $24,000 from school zone safety/enforcement from directly funds; and
  • Capital costs of $283,500 for three patrol vehicles and equipment, two unmarked vehicles and equipment and the decommission of five vehicles.

“One thing I’d like to do this year is start replacing the mobile video cameras — those have been very beneficial. They provide a different angle of footage for the officers. They turn on automatically with the top lights, that’s important,” Mr. Wingert said during his explanation of the patrol budget.

“This would be a five-year program. The year one is about $54,000, the total budget on it is about $169,000. This is replacing a service that we have already [used], just updating the technology, and likely going with the same vendor we have for body worn cameras.”

The proposed variable message board trailer would be put in to the school zones on occasion, Mr. Wingert says.

“This could do a couple of different things: 1. It could be used as a variable message board to remind people to slow down, also displaying the speed they’re going, and reminding them what the speed limit is,” he said. “On the weekends, there’s the possibility of using it on some of our more highly bicycle trafficked areas to remind A) bicyclists to ride two abreast and B) remind motorists to give bicyclists 3 feet.”

Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner says he really likes the idea of the message board, calling it overdue.

“I think where we’ve also added those signs that display speed, I’ve noticed that helps control speed. Obviously we don’t want them everywhere, all the time, everywhere, but having them strategically placed certainly does help,” Mr. Bien-Willner said. “It’s a tool I’m glad you’re asking for because I know you’ll find good use for.”

The Town of Paradise Valley has an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Phoenix for fire services. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Fire services

Deputy Town Manager Dawn Marie Buckland presented information on the fire service provided by the Phoenix Fire Department.

In town, there are two fire stations fully staffed by the Phoenix Fire Department. Through an intergovernmental agreement, the town and Phoenix equally share cost and revenue.

The fire services budget for fiscal year 2018-19 includes a 6% increase from the past fiscal year. The changes are primarily from: Personnel and supplies and services.

Personnel will see a net increase of $82,324.

“The net increase in cost of personnel reflects not only the personnel costs of the fire stations themselves, but we also allocate certain support functions of the town to each of the respective funds — so when you look at IT support, facilities, human resources — those types of functionality the percentage of their time that is spent in support of each of those funds is allocated to those funds so this is a reflection of the time that’s being spent in fire services on the town support side,” Ms. Buckland explained.

The net increase for supplies and services is $179,239 from the cost the town will pay Phoenix for the IGA, various maintenance costs, directly billing of processing costs associated with fire services, and other supplies and services.

Ms. Buckland says there are revenues coming in to offset the cost of the contract for fire services.

Councilman Paul Dembow says the 6% increase seems high for one year, and asked if it is an anomaly?

“We hope to see that as well. We do continue working with our partners at the City of Phoenix as it relates to the cost associated to the IGA. A big portion of that at times is their pension allocation,” Ms. Buckland said, pointing to the demand local public safety pension retirement systems per municipality require.

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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