The 35-year-old homeless woman stood in the bike lane on Oracle Road near Magee Road as Officer Doug Hamblin unlocked the handcuffs from behind her back.
The woman had been abandoned by two men in a car after allegedly attempting to unload $86 worth of beer she had stolen from the Fry's Food and Drug Store at 7951 N. Oracle Road into the car. Frightened by an employee who had followed the woman out of the store, the two men sped away. The homeless woman was arrested a few moments later and cited for shoplifting.
As the handcuffs were coming off, Officer Bruce Thomas had these words of advice after citing and releasing the woman: "We've taken over the area, so tell your friends if they come back, we'll be here."
The area Oro Valley police officers have taken over is the newly annexed 630 acres in a predominantly commercial area south of the town's northern boundaries and bounded by Northern Avenue on the west, First Avenue on the east and Suffolk Drive on the south.
The homeless woman's arrest was one of numerous law enforcement actions taken by police on the second day of a monthlong campaign being waged as police familiarize themselves with business owners and apartment complex managers. The actions are being made possible by the town's hiring of six new officers earlier this year in anticipation of the annexation.
"It's part of Chief Danny Sharp's philosophy of high visibility as a means of prevention," said Becky Mendez, the department's public information spokeswoman.
In the rest of Oro Valley it will be business as usual, but to motorists coming and going from Catalina and Oracle into and out of Tucson it may seem a whole different matter.
In the past, from Ina Road on Oracle to the Oro Valley town limits has been a racetrack with drivers suddenly slowing down once they reach the town's limits because of its reputation as a speed trap, Thomas said. "Our reputation precedes us," he said.
It is a reputation the town doesn't discourage.
"The truth is we actually don't mind that reputation because we believe that high visibility is a deterrent for traffic violations and promotes safe driving," Mendez said.
"If drivers slow down and pay more attention to the traffic laws when they enter Oro Valley, we don't see that as a negative. If our streets are safer for the people who live in Oro Valley, the consumers who are supporting our commercial developments, our student population and those who are traveling through town, we see that as a positive," said Mendez.
With the department's newly extended territory of enforcement, warnings are being stressed in a break-in period.
"You've got to tell them what the rules of the game are first before you really get serious," said Thomas. So warnings to motorists will predominate for awhile except for more egregious offenses, he said.
The enforcement campaign is a widespread effort.
Two days before the annexation became effective on May 7, police distributed materials to about a dozen residents of a homeless camp on Northern Avenue behind Fry's food store, warning them to leave or face eviction when police came back. The next day they were gone, raising hopes that the assortment of thefts and littering that had plagued customers for so long had ended at least for awhile.
At the Saddle Ridge Apartments, 450 W, Cool Drive, Thomas was responding to a 911 call that before the annexation would have been handled by the Pima County Sheriff's Department when two bikers zipped by over speed bumps as he entered the apartment complex.
"Enjoy the day," Thomas said aloud but with the windows of his vehicle still raised. "We'll be talking to you soon."
Bicycle officers Hamblin and Dan Krueger had answered the 911 call just minutes before Thomas arrived and discovered a resident had dialed the number by mistake.
The brief lull gave the bicycle officers a chance to recount a drug bust the day before in the same complex that ended up with the arrest of a man residents had been complaining about for months in connection with the sale of marijuana out of his apartment.
Up and down Oracle it's been a love fest between business owners, residents and police. Shopping centers have been saturated with police volunteers and foot patrols checking up on concerns ranging from road improvements to measures they can take to better protect their businesses.
"The more the better," said an assistant manager at the Fry's where the alleged beer shoplifting took place. "It would have taken the county an hour or two to respond and the Oro Valley police were here in less than five minutes," he said, asking that his name not be used. "It's nothing against the Sheriff's Department. It's just that they're spread so thin.
"We've also had some pretty aggressive panhandlers and that problem seems to have been taken care of as well. We really appreciate that because many of our customers are seniors and it doesn't take much to upset them."
The only negative, the official said, was that with the annexation, customers will be paying an additional 2 percent town sales tax.
Mark Campbell, manager of the Bank One branch at 7952 N. Oracle, said the bank signed petitions in favor of annexation because of the perception there would be faster response times and that's holding true. "For a while now we've been in no man's land," Campbell said. "I'm not complaining about the Sheriff's Department. They've been good, but the fact is citizens should feel more comfortable when police are around the bank."
During the annexation drive as petitions were being circulated, perhaps 25 percent of residents were adamantly opposed to becoming part of Oro Valley and 25 percent were strongly in favor, while 50 percent were waiting for more information on what the annexation would mean to them in terms of services, said Thomas.
"I was talking to the business owners and finding out about their issues that really turned things around in favor," Thomas said.
"One lady business owner was so happy to see an officer patrolling her shopping center that the officer thought she was going to kiss him," Thomas said.
Businesses also have been provided forms on which to list emergency numbers and other information that will be kept in the Police Department's communications center. Individual businesses also are being contacted to let them know the types of services the department can provide and patrols are hitting school zones when classes break, Mendez said.
"The chief has instructed all officers to observe special areas of concern where there might be suspicious activity or areas where there might be an engineering traffic problem to make a note of these areas and report to their supervisors so that the information can be sent up through the proper channels," she said. Of the nearly 120 businesses in the area, about 75 percent have been contacted thus far, she said.
"We're leaning toward more familiarization, getting to know people and conducting an education as to what our philosophy is in enforcement," Mendez said. "And of course that philosophy is based on safety for all."