The Town of Paradise Valley has hired Paul Penzone as a consultant to the newly formed public safety task force focused on improving general operations of the Paradise Valley Police Department.
Mr. Penzone’s $18,000 contract, to be paid out of contingency dollars, will expire upon submission of the task force’s recommendations to Paradise Valley Town Council this April, according to Town Manager Jim Bacon.
The task force comes on the heels of a series of unsolved home burglaries -- 11 of the 54 reported in 2012 occurring over the last 60 to 90 days of the year.
Since the start of 2013, more than one-third of the total amount of burglaries occurring within town limits last year have already been recorded, police reports show.
In all, 18 burglaries have been reported through March 6, police reports show.
Read the latest on recent burglaries here
Paradise Valley Town Council voted 6-1 on Jan. 24 to form the task force and voted 5-2 appointing five steering committee members: Vice Mayor Michael Collins, councilmembers Dan Schweiker and David Sherf, and residents Mary Hamway and Larry Fink.
Resolution 1270 states, among other things, the Paradise Valley Public Safety Task Force will consist of five steering committee members with membership open to the general public.
The general public, however, will not have a vote on the task force, which will be disbanded no later than April 25 following the delivery of a report of findings and recommendations to Paradise Valley Town Council, the resolution states.
Penzone brought in
Mr. Penzone, a decorated 21-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department and most recently candidate for Maricopa County sheriff, will be a benefit to crafting task force recommendations, Mayor Scott LeMarr contends.
“I am excited he is joining the group,” Mayor LeMarr said in a March 5 phone interview. “He will bring a lot to the table. I am confident that we are going to come out of this with a pretty good result.”
Mayor LeMarr says he recently became aware of Mr. Penzone’s safety consulting services.
“He came to me because he is doing security consulting work with some of our community’s high-net-worth individuals,” he explained. “So, I said, ‘what if I just called him and took him to lunch?”
From that lunch, Mr. Penzone is now a paid consultant to the Town of Paradise Valley.
Paradise Valley Councilwoman Pam Kirby says the public safety task force may become more of a hindrance than boon for creating effective communication between the police department and general public.
“They have replaced the council with their self-appointed steering committee,” she said of the hand-picked steering committee members. “They didn’t even interview anyone else. We are not like Phoenix and Scottsdale ... why wouldn’t we get a consultant with law enforcement experience with communities like ours?”
While the Paradise Valley Police Department acknowledges there are similar circumstances between 11 of the 54 reported burglaries last year, officials remain steadfast to the assertion say there is no physical evidence linking any of the crimes.
On Jan. 15, however, two arrests were made -- a male-and-female duo -- in connection with a home burglary. Paradise Valley Police Chief John Bennett says he does not believe the recent arrests can be connected to the 11 at the end of 2012 nor the recent rash of 18 burglaries.
The recent burglaries have no distinct area of target, but it appears the frequency of burglaries has moved toward the middle and southeast portions of town limits, police reports show.
Police have reported the burglaries that occurred at the end of October and into November 2012 happened in the area south of Tatum and Shea boulevards with some occurring on Cochise Road and Beryl Avenue in Paradise Valley.
Each burglary, then and now, typically occurs between the hours of 3:30 and 10 p.m., when it is believed the suspects knew residents were not home, police say.
Paradise Valley police officials say they believe the suspects are likely drug addicts looking for quick and fruitful opportunities to gather money for their next fix.
In the wake of the substantial uptick to home burglaries, Chief Bennett has launched a special detail of plain-clothed officers who are staking out neighborhoods during the times most burglaries occur.
In addition, these officers are watching local streets at night with the use of night-vision goggles.
During the Jan. 10 Paradise Valley Town Council work session, Chief Bennett asked the governing board to approve the hiring of new personnel -- a lieutenant and community resource officer.
Chief Bennett says he hopes to see those hires in the coming fiscal year 2013-14 budget proposal.
The price tag for both officers is, considering retirement and benefit packages, estimated at about $300,000, according to Mr. Bacon.
The Paradise Valley Public Safety Task Force, meanwhile, is beginning to define recommendations based on community expectations gleaned from research and public discussions at Town Hall, Vice Mayor Collins says.
“I think we are on point, on target to present our findings to the council,” he said at the March 5 task force meeting. “We are going to start to bring that home ... and start to make recommendations.”
Vice Mayor Collins called the enlistment of Mr. Penzone in a consultation capacity “a method we use often.”
Mr. Penzone described his role as complimentary to the task force.
“If it is impacting you, it is impacting me,” he said of recent home burglaries on the Paradise Valley and Scottsdale border. “We expect law enforcement to keep us safe ... this is a great opportunity to strengthen that relationship.”
Mr. Penzone, a Scottsdale resident, says the mere formation of the task force points to a community focused on improving public safety.
“I was never a police officer who lives in the neighborhood,” he pointed out of his community approach to policing. “I was a member of the community who happened to be a police officer.”
Mr. Penzone says improvements to public safety -- typically a conversation revolving around dollars and cents -- is more of a discussion of community priorities.
“How do you utilize what you have and make it appear as an enhanced presence,” he said of recommendations that could be coming. “This goes into best using our resources.”
Vice Mayor Collins says through task force recommendations neighborhoods will be safer and community communication will be enhanced.
““I would suggest that it is possible to find money for the police department,” he told the task force. “The staffing model that the chief has established promotes the kind of connectivity of officers we want.”