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Trouble at Black Horse Ranch

After a series of crimes, frustrated Catalina residents band together

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Because of incorrect and incomplete statistics provided by the Pima County Sheriff's Department, "Trouble at Black Horse Ranch" contains inaccuracies.

The story incorrectly reported that the rate of reported offenses to people and property in Catalina was two and three times that of the Avra Valley/Picture Rocks area. That is actually not the case; it turns out that, statistically, reported crimes are much lower in Catalina.

According to the sheriff's department, the PCSD Foothills District Office, which oversees those two non-metro beats, also covers four metro beats. The coverage area ranges from Roger Road north to the county line, and Campbell Avenue west to the Silver Bell mine. Two officers are assigned to each beat, with one extra officer added whenever possible, for a total of 12 to 13 officers on duty at all times. Deputies do flow across beat lines if there's a high call load.

According to corrected PSCD statistics, between June and September, there were 107 reported property crimes in Catalina, compared to 179 in Avra Valley/Picture Rocks. In contrast, the four metro areas-also covered by two officers each-had 282, 587, 642 and 950 property crimes reported over the same period.

Oro Valley, which has its own police department, had 235 reported property crimes.

For property crimes plus reported offenses against people-including aggravated assault with a weapon, rape, child molestation, domestic violence and others-Catalina had 209 reported offenses, compared to 284 reported for Avra Valley/Picture Rocks.

Although the Weekly accurately reported the information as provided by the PCSD, we apologize for the error.


Psychologist Pat Watson and her schoolteacher husband, Don, were concerned about the shootings and other violent crimes taking place in their southwest Tucson neighborhood. They decided to move back to the northwestern part of town, where things were more peaceful.

Last year, the couple paid top dollar for their dream house in Catalina's brand-new Black Horse Ranch development. Everything seemed fine until this summer, when someone swiped the couple's 4 1/2-foot concrete birdbath with a statue of St. Francis--in plain view of their front window.

When Watson called the sheriff's department to report the theft, she was told that there wasn't much that could be done, because the department was "underpowered."

Not long after that, she learned that her neighbors' lawn ornaments--prized flowerpots, cement gargoyles, Buddhas, pagoda lamps and solar lights--had also gone missing. "One out of three or four of us has had something stolen," she said, although many didn't report the theft.

Watson heard that some homes in the KB Homes development up the street had been hit, too. "I haven't gone door to door to ask them," she said. "Who's going to report three stolen pots?"

In the same subdivision--whose streets are named for racehorses--thieves broke into Cy Gilson's car and stole his cell phone and car manual. "Can you imagine?" he said with disgust. "A car manual."

Homes there sell for $250,000 to $300,000.

"We've had thefts, burglaries, everything," Gilson told Pima County Supervisor Ann Day at a Sept. 7 open house, during the county's rollout of plans for a new Catalina Regional Park. "We 're concerned about the crime element coming in here."

Added Mark Kendall, a member of Greater Catalina/Golder Ranch Village Council: "It's not just Black Horse Ranch; it's all over Catalina."

Catalina resident Connie Crosby said she hasn't had a problem, because she has three large dogs. "But there's been a humongous influx of people," she said.

According to PCSD statistics, Catalina residents have some cause for concern.

Catalina, with 408 offenses reported to police, had twice the number of crimes reported since January than did two demographically similar non-metro areas combined--Avra Valley and Picture Rocks, which had 174. Catalina had three times the amount of larcenies, burglaries and vehicle thefts (178/60) and twice the reports of malicious mischief and vandalism (67/32). It had twice the reported number of aggravated assaults with a weapon (8/4) and three times the number of reported drug offenses (29/10). Other assaults, not including domestic violence, were about equal (17/18). Catalina had two armed robberies; Avra Valley/Picture Rocks had none in the same six-month period.

Catalina did have fewer reported sex offenses, with five child molestations and one other sex offense, compared to five child molestations, two forcible rapes and six other sex offenses in Avra Valley/Picture Rocks.

As a group, the subdivision sent a petition with about 45 names to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, asking him to provide more of a police presence in Black Horse Ranch. Dupnik's office forwarded the petition to Lt. Sandy Rosenthal, commander of the Foothills District Office, which covers Catalina.

"We have as much concern as they do," Rosenthal said. "We're hoping to work with citizens there to make sure the whole area of Catalina is protected."

Last week, apparently caught by surprise, the lieutenant's staff was scrambling to go over every crime report in Catalina and tally statistics for the area. Two officers each cover Catalina and Avra Valley/Picture Rocks.

Black Horse HOA Manager Tom Miller said the problem there was news to him, although there had been trouble a few months earlier up in the new Eagle Crest development, just over the county line, when washers and dryers vanished from construction sites, and some residents woke up to find the gas siphoned from their cars.

"It happens all the time," he said. "If you leave the garage door open, and someone sees a $2,000 set of golf clubs, they'll just grab them."

PCSD Sgt. Dennis Chavarria, swing shift sergeant for the Foothills Patrol Division, said that much of Catalina's crime problem is caused by five "home-grown" career criminals, and all but one--and there's a warrant out for his arrest--is now in jail.

"We look at their release dates and right after, we see a spike (in crime)," he said. "Once they're incarcerated, the rates plummet." He declined to identify the five men.

Chavarria thinks the thefts and car break-ins are crimes of opportunity. "It takes 15 seconds, tops, to jump out, grab a pot and jump back in your truck," he said. "It comes down to keeping an eye on each other."

Meanwhile, Watson's group is looking into a Neighborhood Watch program. "We're also writing to the HOA asking them to provide a security patrol between sunset and sunrise," she said.

At deadline, Supervisor Day was going into a meeting with Sheriff Dupnik to discuss bringing more manpower to the area. "The sheriff needs to answer to that," she said. "It's also important for the community to understand that everyone who lives out there needs to contact the sheriff's office or my office" to report a crime when it occurs.

The crime problem reflects that times are indeed changing in Catalina.

Black Horse Ranch, a suburban development of paved streets and sidewalks lined with 400 tightly packed homes--half of which are still under construction--was an anomaly to long-time Catalina residents accustomed to open land, country roads, widely spaced horse properties and trailer parks.

Developed by Mike Carlier and Chris Scheafe of Black Horse Advisors, the size and scope of the project on 178 acres between Golder Ranch and Wilds roads shocked residents alarmed about the impact of 400 new families on schools, roads and the small-town feel of their community.

Last year, residents were better prepared for a fight over High Mesa, another high-density project from the same developers. When High Mesa came up for approval, residents formed an opposition group, Save Catalina. They wrote letters of protest, signed petitions and stormed public hearings, despite the developers' proposed gift of 40 acres for a park and other public facilities. In a stunning victory for Save Catalina, Black Horse Advisors withdrew its rezoning request.

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