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Posted on July 21, 2020 in Arizona Law

Phoenix Council Votes To Expand Gated Alley Program Pilot to Increase Safety and Reduce Crime

On February 5, 2020, the Phoenix City Council approved an expansion of the Gated Alley Program Pilot or GAP. The Council also approved $400,000 in Neighborhood Watch Grant Program funds to pay for some of the gates in the expanded program. The expansion included up to 10 alley segments in a council district.

At the beginning of July 2020, the Council approved an additional $98,100 in grant funds to install gates in alleys around the Human Services Campus at Madison and 12th Avenue.

The program began as an attempt to deter crime and blight in some areas of the City by installing locked gates on certain alleys. Because of the success of the test areas, the city council wants to expand the gated alleys into additional communities.

The alleys in Phoenix have been a part of the City for decades. However, alleys can be areas of unwanted traffic, criminal activity, illegal dumping, and other undesirable activities. By installing locked gates, the City made it more difficult for individuals who had no business being in these alleys from accessing them.

When Did the Gated Alley Program Pilot Begin in Phoenix?

The residents of Royal Palm agreed to be a test area for the gated alley program. The Council also approved a portion of the Sunnyslope neighborhoods as test areas. On June 27, 2017, the City Council approved the program to proceed.

Alleys in Phoenix have numerous purposes. Homeowners have access to the alleys that abut their properties. Solid waste services, utility companies, and the City service also use the alleys.

Under GAP, only residents whose property abuts the alley, utility companies, and the City have keys to access the alleys.

The alleys remain rights-of-ways regulated by the City of Phoenix. Property owners cannot repurpose the alleys for other uses, unless the City formally abandons the alley.

Participation in the gated alley program is voluntary. Residents in the pilot areas could choose not to have their alleys gated and locked. To have an alley gated and locked in the pilot area, more than one-half of the property owners with abutting property must agree to participate in GAP.

Why Do Property Owners Want the Alleys in Phoenix Gated and Locked?

The push to have the alleys in Royal Palm began after a man jumped a fence and exposed himself to two young girls in a residential yard. Residents began pushing the City to allow them to install gates with locks to prevent access to the alleyways.

The hope was that by installing the gates, criminals would be deterred from using the alleys. Homeowners also wanted to make their homes safer.

Some of the crimes and activities that take place in alleyways throughout the City include:

  • People using the alleyways as shortcuts
  • Illegal dumping, including bulk dumping
  • Drug deals
  • People loitering
  • Illegal encampments
  • Assaults
  • Sex Crimes
  • Robbery
  • Looting
  • Graffiti
  • Theft
  • Murder and homicide
  • Other criminal activity

According to the Phoenix City Code, Residents are required to maintain the alleys and keep the alleyways clear. Therefore, the illegal dumping was a problem because homeowners had to remove the trash at their expense. That alone was enough for many residents to agree to the locked alley gates.

However, the crime and potential for crime led many homeowners to vote in favor of the locked gates on their alleys. The inconvenience of moving trash pickup or not being able to access your lot from the alley was a small price to pay for additional safety.

Do Gated and Locked Alleys Reduce the Incidents of Crime?

The data from the pilot program is still being analyzed. However, an ASU guide about closing streets and alleys to reduce crime discusses research in other cities.

According to the ASU guide, research suggests that preventing through traffic to alleys can mean that:

  • Criminals may be less likely to become familiar with the area
  • Residents become more familiar with who does not belong in the area, which helps them to keep a closer watch on the area for outsiders
  • If neighbors are committing crimes, it becomes more difficult to blame the crimes on outsiders
  • Gates make it more difficult for criminals to gain access to the property from the alley
  • Escape routes are blocked off for criminals attempting to flee a crime scene
  • Individuals cannot use the alleys for drive-by shootings

At the time of the ASU guide, there were not a lot of studies for gated alleys. As the Phoenix City Council and the residents of Phoenix continue to work together to gate alleys that could be used for criminal activities, data may prove that the gates do impact crime levels.