PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Sheriff's Joe Arpaio's volunteer posse is now patrolling Valley malls for the holidays. The annual program launched again at Paradise Valley Mall.
In light of terror concerns, Arpaio is encouraging armed citizens to take action if his posse members are not around.
MCSO's mall patrols started in 1993, and the tradition continues this holiday season, with a twist: Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now asking armed citizens to take action. He says gun-owners can help his posse by standing up against violence or threats of terrorism until law enforcement can arrive.
Surrounded by his posse, Sheriff Joe Arpaio asked armed citizens to help protect malls this holiday season. Arpaio says nearly 250,000 Arizonans carry concealed weapons and many more are carrying in the open.
"I'm asking for that group to make sure that if some violent activity occurs that they take action to defend themselves, and also the people around them until law enforcement shows up," said Arpaio.
Sheriff Arpaio's call for community action is a response to what he says is the threat of terrorism and shootings in crowded areas. Robert Merritt patrols malls with the posse and says MCSO made at least six arrests at malls during the holidays last year.
"We drive around the outside of the mall, we come in here, we drive up and down the parking garage here, and we'll go up to the other floors," said Merritt.
This past weekend, MCSO says it arrested a woman on its wanted list who was shoplifting at the mall and carrying drugs.
Not everyone is on board with the Sheriff's plan to expand his patrol to gun owners.
"They do have like a job to make sure everyone else is safe, but I feel like the only people who can truly do that is someone like a security guard who I trust has been trained with a gun," said Daisha.
"We're gonna do everything we can to make sure they're safe and secure, and can enjoy themselves this holiday season," said Arpaio.
Sheriff Arpaio says there hasn't been a violent incident since his posse began patrolling at the holidays 22 years ago. This year, MCSO will have a minimum of 2 posse members plus at least 1 sworn deputy at each mall with increased security on the weekends.