President Bryant Powell introduced our speaker, Apache Junction Police Chief Tom Kelly. Chief Kelly was good enough to step in on short notice to provide our program. 
 
Apache Junction has about 35,000-40,000 year ‘round residents, with a peak population of about 70,000 during the winter months. Calls for service stay fairly consistent throughout the year, despite the doubled population during tourist season. Annually, those calls total roughly 50,000, which is busy for a small town, but not all the calls are criminal. Many calls are simply responding to the needs of the community. In addition, AJPD helps to cover calls that are on the Mesa side of the city boundaries and the “no man’s land” of unincorporated Maricopa County islands. 
 
The AJ Police Department often collaborates with other departments for additional coverage. For example, you may notice that Tempe bicycle officers will be at the Apache Junction Lost Dutchman Days helping to increase coverage. On the other hand, the AJPD will often help the Tempe Police when they are doing a DUI task force on Mill Avenue. 
 
Since 2008, Apache Junction has participated in the East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center. The Fusion Center partners eight different east valley departments, collecting and analyzing data as it comes in and sharing the intel to officers on the street in real time, working together to solve crime in our communities. 
 
The AJPD is constantly looking for new volunteers. They currently have more than 100 volunteers working in many diverse areas, such as victim crime advocates, animal control center, and cold case investigators. The cold case investigators are two retired officers who winter here and volunteer more than 30 hours per week. They recently solved a homicide case from the 90’s, and are close to solving another now. 
 
Q&A Insights: 
Kids use “bath salts” as a legal substitute for meth. The bath salts are sold as incense and labeled, “not for human consumption,” but the effects when consumed are intensely addictive, unpredictable, and insidious. Apache Junction was one of the first cities in Pinal county that achieved 100% voluntary compliance from stores who took the product off the shelf and either returned them to the vendor or turned them into AJPD. Officers continue to spot check and will periodically find a product on the shelves and ask the management to voluntarily comply with the ban. 
 
Chief Kelly worked in drug enforcement for 25 years before coming to Apache Junction. AJ has unfairly been tagged as the “meth capital of Arizona.” Kelly told us that, despite his many years of experience, “This is by far the biggest falsehood I’ve ever heard. I saw more drugs in the small towns of Minnesota than I have ever seen in Apache Junction.”  
The Apache Junction Police Department has a good relationship with CAAFA, and they use that relationship to provide additional domestic violence training for officers. In a domestic violence situation, anytime the officer responds and the offender is gone, a CAAFA advocate will come out and will stay there until the victim feels safe.  
 
Apache Junction has comparatively less crime than surrounding communities, “But it’s related to population, too – like a family reunion: the larger the family, the greater the chance that someone is going to get into a fight.” 
 
Technically, the sheriffs handle the unincorporated areas, while the police department works in the city; but the Pinal County Sheriff’s jurisdiction is quite large, and they’re really spread out, so AJPD will frequently respond to incidents in the county islands, Gold Canyon, and Peralta Trail, handle the call, and secure the situation until the sheriff’s department can get there. “We have a really good relationship with all of the neighboring departments. That’s one of the mandates I’ve always believed in. Because we are small, we have to reach out; we have to work together and use those resources and manpower to our best advantage.” 
 
President Bryant also commented about the falsehood of high crime in Apache Junction, “One of the biggest myths that I battle is that Apache Junction is full of drugs, and it’s perpetuated by the Media. Apache Junction begins at Meridian Road. Every address west of Meridian is not Apache Junction. If you see or hear a piece in the news about a meth bust at Crismon and Broadway or whatever – that is not Apache Junction. From Meridian west to Power is either Mesa or unincorporated Maricopa County.”