Questions surround Tempe's decision to pay for armed security guards at some parks

TEMPE, Ariz. (KSAZ) -- The City of Tempe is planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire armed security guards at some of its parks, due to safety concerns.

At the same time, however, some residents of the East Valley city are asking if their parks really need private, armed security.

Hudson Park, located in the area of McClintock Drive and Apache Boulevard, is one of the four parks that the armed security guards are already patrolling. The city was concerned about the growing homeless population, and the city plans to spend $250,000 to deal with trash left on the lawn, disorderly conduct, and drug use.

Some who live in the area say they have witnessed fights breaking out in the park's restroom, and they think hiring armed guards is a good idea. However, others who live in the same area said they haven't witnessed any violence from the homeless community, and they don't believe hiring private security is the solution.

Justin Stewart, Chairperson of Mitchell Park Neighnborhood Association, has been vocal on the issue, and speaking out against this latest city spending. In a statement, Stewart said:

"This solution will only add more tension to a problem that has already reached a tipping point in some of the parks."

In response, city leaders say other means to curb the homeless problem have not directly worked in solving the safety concerns at Tempe parks.

"Over the years, we've done many things to try and address it," said Tempe City Councilmember Kolby Granville. "We ramped up funding for homelessness, we ramped up the payment for down payment assistance, ramped up funding for mental health services."

In response to viewers questioning why the city is not using its own police officers, city leaders say hiring armed guards is more cost effective.

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