About 50 Ahwatukee neighbors and leaders of block watch groups gathered at Pecos Community Center Thursday night to hear a presentation and ask questions of their Community Action Officers during a quarterly meeting entitled "Tukee Talk" - no relation to this column.

Erin Hurley, a forensic scientist of firearms for Phoenix's crime lab, gave a presentation on all that goes on in the lab.

There are many different sections including Crime Scene Response, which collects evidence from a scene, Toxicology, Controlled Substance, DNA, Latent Printing, Question Documents, Trace and Arson, and Firearms.

After Hurley's presentation, block watch leaders had a chance to ask questions. Some wanted to know when it may be too soon to call the police.

Lt. Sean Connolly, resource lieutenant for the South Mountain Precinct, said any call can remain anonymous and that they count on neighbors to call if they see anything suspicious at any time.

"If you see something suspicious or it just doesn't feel right to you, you can call us," said Connolly. "We are servants and that's why we are here. I want you calling 911 if you see a suspicious cat running through your neighborhood. Call us. Please don't be indifferent about that. I want you to describe in detail what you're seeing with your own eyes. We have professional operators who are trained to take what you're saying and convey it to us."

As far as general trends in crime, Connolly told residents the South Mountain Precinct has seen a 1 percent drop in property crimes this year to date but city-wide crime is increasing.

"For many years, when you put all crime together we were seeing double-digit drops in crime, and we are seeing that start to bottom out," Connolly said. "We are starting to see a little increase in crime, both violent and property."

Connolly noted that there is one major crime happening nationwide that the South Mountain Precinct is really focusing on - copper theft. South Mountain Precinct now has a small team of officers dedicated to tracking and stopping copper theft.

"We're not only catching the guys doing the act through a set-up but we're also going to those metal yards and holding the metal yards accountable," Connolly said. "We inspect them and the property they're bringing in. If I bring something in to a metal yard I am required, by Arizona law, to show ID and have a fingerprint taken. We're going through those logs and finding the frequent flyers and we're going back out and introducing ourselves to them with handcuffs. We've been tremendously successful with that."

Officers reminded those present to close garage doors and watch out for neighbors. They also reminded people to carry identification whenever they go out jogging or walking. Sgt. Scott McCauley said the woman who was struck by a car and killed on the Warner-Elliot Loop last week was eventually identified through a fingerprint, but if she had been carrying ID it would have saved the officers and the family a lot of stress and time.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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