City of Phoenix working to combat homeless problem

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - As the City of Phoenix works to find ways to deal with a growing homeless population, one idea involves hiring more park rangers to patrol our parks and libraries - places where the homeless tend to gather. But some are concerned about the idea, saying park rangers aren't trained to deal with the homeless. And they're even going as far as to question why these rangers look and dress like police officers.

The issue of mental health training - are park rangers ready for that if they're the ones patrolling the libraries in the city? It's one issue that shines light on another.

Phoenix City Council is ready to take steps to lessen the burden of its police force by pulling them out of patrolling the city libraries and hiring more park rangers to keep watch, especially of the homeless population.

"It's a good place for them to be I would imagine," said one Phoenix resident. "It's a comfortable space, I guess."

The proposal would allocate $3,000,000 in the city budget for new rangers.

"[It] probably seems like it could be a good idea," the Phoenix resident said. "I don't think there are a lot of situations that need police, but probably more often [its] mental health professionals."

The issue of mental health training was front and center at City Council today.

"The Rangers do work closely with the Phoenix Cares program currently," said Inger Erickson, director of Phoenix Parks and Recreation. "But we can certainly get more specific training to address those concerns."

We ran into one former officer who says rangers aren't ready for mental health situations.

"I've dealt with them also, there's certain people you don't put your hands on," said Julian McCroy, a former law enforcement officer. "You try to talk them down and de-escalate the situation. There's certain people I used to grab or not, if they wouldn't comply with the orders."

The issue brings to light the elephant in the room.

"It's increasing dramatically and it's happening throughout the entire city," said Sal Diciccio with the Phoenix City Council. "It's no longer a downtown problem - it's happening throughout."

Maddie eluded to the aggressive stigma that police officers might have versus park rangers, but that opens to the door to the discussion on the uniforms of park rangers and whether they should be aligned with police.