Ahwatukee Foothills Community Action Officer Rick Tamburo helps provide information and tools so people can cut the odds of becoming a victim of crime. Terri Smith/Special to AFN

Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series on the various types of officers from the Phoenix Police Department assigned to protect Ahwatukee Foothills. Part one, on school resource officers, appeared May 12. Part two, on patrol officers, appeared in the May 14 issue of the AFN. Both can be found at ahwatukee.com.

Officer Rick Tamburo fields questions from a small gathering at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center as if it’s batting practice.

The benefits of home alarms (he said they add another layer for burglars to get through.); what to do around the house when leaving for the summer? (make sure the home looks lived in and not deserted.); and the big one: Is Ahwatukee Foothills safe?

“I live out here,” Tamburo said. “I would say there is no better place to live, but we do have crime.”

And that’s where Tamburo comes in. As a Community Action Officer, his job is to help provide information and tools so that people can cut the odds of becoming a victim of crime.

He, along with his partner, officer Chad Williamsen, help organize neighbors to form Block Watch groups. They also keep reinforcing basic crime prevention tips when they speak to groups such as keeping garage doors closed and calling police if they suspect something suspicious.

Their community work acts as a force-multiplier for the police, by increasing the numbers of eyes on the streets.

“If you guys are watching your neighborhood, it makes it a lot easier for us,” Tamburo told the seniors several weeks ago.

But they also deal with lesser problems that can easily turn into big issues, including everything from barking dogs, school zone enforcement and stranger danger presentations to complaints among neighbors.

Last year, a woman came to Tamburo crying about a neighbor who was disturbing the neighborhood. An investigation started by Tamburo grew to eventually include a task force with SWAT, Phoenix Fire Department investigators, the bomb squad and others. The neighbor was arrested, and the case is making its way through court.

At other times, it’s a little more sedate.

“A lot of time they use us to mediate,” Williamsen said.

For Linda Byrd, she first met Tamburo after a nearby home invasion, and he helped her form a local Block Watch.

Since then Tamburo has helped the neighborhood deal with an unoccupied home that teens were using for weekly parties, graffiti and traditional crime prevention, including encouraging the residents and the local homeowners association to cut back landscaping in dark areas to reduce the opportunity for criminals to hide.

Plus, said Byrd, it’s just nice to have an actual person to call with a problem.

“Having a CAO, there is reassurance that something will be done with it,” instead of wondering if the problem or issue will get set aside by an officer busy with other issues.

“He’s been very involved and extremely helpful,” Byrd said. “Without the block watch, we would have never realized how we can utilize his skills.”

But like all officers assigned to the 35 square miles that make up Ahwatukee Foothills, when a hot call comes in the CAOs also respond, from reports of burglars in a neighborhood to shoplifting.

Last year, it was Tamburo who helped to capture a thief who fled Best Buy with a cell phone after implying that he was armed with a handgun. And Williamsen and Tamburo have been in on dragnets to capture burglars caught in the act and helped on drug busts.

“We wear multiple hats,” said Tamburo, a 22-year veteran of the department.

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