The population in the county seat of Yuma is 95,502. There are 38,626 housing units with 59.2-percent owner-occupied. The median value of owner-occupied housing is $120,200 and the median rent is $865. The median household income is $44,216 and the per capita income is $21,468. Among the residents in the county, 77.6-percent of the population have a high school degree or higher and 17.2-percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The average travel time to work is 15.8 minutes.
Because of its climate, Yuma attracts retirees. With 90-percent sunshine during daylight hours, Yuma is the sunniest place in the world. It has a dry climate with little humidity except during the “Gulf Surge” and an average of only 3.36-inches of rain annually. During a gulf surge, tropical air is pulled into the area from the Gulf of California, especially during the summer monsoon season and after tropical storms to the south. In 1997, Hurricane Nora actually hit Yuma as did another hurricane in 1977. In Yuma, June is the driest month and August and September are the wettest months. Yuma is also very warm with 175 days annually having temperatures above 90° Fahrenheit. Yuma reached a record high of 124° Fahrenheit in 1995, and a record low of 21° Fahrenheit in January, 2007. Generally, the temperature exceeds 100° Fahrenheit around 118 days annually from April through October, mostly during July and August and falls below freezing less than 25-percent of the time.
Yuma has an agricultural economy, including citrus fruits, which offers only seasonal employment.
The county government consists of a Board of Supervisors with representatives from five districts. The board creates laws and programs, levies taxes and regulates spending, controls zoning and development, and provides representation for the county with other government agencies.
The city of Yuma has a mayor, a city council, and a city administrator. The mayor is elected as the chief executive officer for a term of four years. The city council is the legislative body creating all the laws for the city. It consists of six members who are elected for four year terms. The city administrator is appointed by the city council and is responsible for executing the laws, creating the budget, and advising the council on the financial condition and needs of the city.
La Paz was the original county seat. In 1871, Arizona City became the county seat, and in 1873, Arizona City was renamed Yuma. The location of the city was chosen by the Spanish because the location is at a narrow crossing of the Colorado River. This crossing was used by ferries as part of the Southern Emigrant Trail to California from the time of the California Gold Rush of 1848 until 1877 when the Southern Pacific Railroad bridged the river. At that point, the warehouses and shipyards of Port Isabel were moved to Yuma and Port Isabel was abandoned.
Fort Yuma was built in 1851 on the California side of the Colorado River across from present day Yuma.
The towns of Jaeger City on the California side of the Colorado River and Colorado City were established one mile south of the fort.
Jaeger City included the Butterfield Overland Mail office and station, a hotel, two blacksmith shops, and two stores.
Colorado City included the custom house, a steamboat stop, and the final wagon train stop up the Gila River. It was just north of Sonora, Mexico, which became the Territory of New Mexico after the Gadsden Purchase.
Colorado City became part of the Territory of Arizona in 1863.
The Great Flood of 1862 destroyed both Jaeger City and Colorado City. Both cities were rebuilt and Colorado City became part of Arizona City.
Arizona City was established beside the fort in 1853. It included a post office, two stores, two saloons, and houses made of adobe.
County Courthouse – Overview and History
The Yuma County Courthouse, known as the historic courthouse, is located at 168 2nd Ave in Yuma, Arizona. The building served as the county’s courthouse until the Yuma County Justice Center opened in 2005. Most courtrooms have moved to the Justice Center, which is adjacent to the courthouse.
The Yuma County Courthouse now houses the Yuma County Law Library which provides access to legal information and law to attorneys, judges, and the public. The law library offers a calendar with listings of training events. In addition to federal and state laws, internal revenue codes, Arizona’s administrative code, and city and county ordinances, the law library provides access to:
• Legal opinions issued by the Arizona Attorney General
• State and federal case law which explains how the law is interpreted in practice
• Appeals procedures and court forms
• Instructions to the jury
• Legal encyclopedias
The library also provides an online card catalogue and self-service help center with downloadable resources and forms. However, the library’s services are for research purposes only, the staff does not and cannot provide legal advice.
The current courthouse is not the original structure.
The first Yuma County Courthouse was designed by architect Robert Brown Young and built by contractors John Wadin and Charles Olcester in 1909.
Young was born in Huntington County, Quebec Province, Canada on April 1, 1855. He moved to Denver, Colorado as a young man where he received training in architecture and construction. After marrying, he moved to San Francisco for a few years before moving to Los Angeles where he founded his architectural firm, R. B. Young & Son. In Los Angeles, he designed the California Furniture, Blackstones, and Barker Brothers commercial buidings; the Hollenbeck, Westminster, Lexington, Occidental, and Lankershim hotels; and the Westonia and Seminole apartments. He also designed several Catholic schools and churches within the Monterey and Los Angeles diocese, and he served as architect in residence for Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theater. In October, 1913, Young was elected president of the Southern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, but was forced to accept the honor by letter and then was unable to serve due to ill health. He passed away on January 29, 1914 at his home in Los Angeles after a lengthy illness.
The original courthouse was built in the same location as the current courthouse. It was built in Neoclassic style. The original building was destroyed by a fire in 1927. The current courthouse was designed by architects Ralph Swearingen and G. A. Hansen and constructed by contractors C. J. Brown and Frank M. Conner in 1928. This courthouse is larger than the original and represents a transitional period from Neoclassicism to a sleeker, more modern 20th century style.
On December 7, 1982, the Yuma County Courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The reference number is #82001661.
Yuma County Sheriff
Besides preserving the peace, the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for maintaining the county jail, serving legal notices, and conducting search and rescue operations. The Sheriff is elected for four year terms.
The office is divided into three bureaus, which are the Administration Bureau, the Detention Bureau, and the Patrol Bureau.
The Administration Bureau consists of Payroll, Human Resources, Civil Processing, Information Technology, and Purchasing. These departments in the Administration Bureau support the other two bureaus in the Sheriff’s office.
The Detention Bureau is responsible for the prisoners in the Yuma County Detention. The goal is to reduce the repeated incarceration of the same individuals through provided educational and other services.
Besides patrolling the unincorporated areas of the county, the Patrol Bureau is also responsible for boating safety enforcement and criminal investigations in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The Yuma County Sheriff’s Office also offers these additional programs.
• Daily automated alls to check on senior citizens
• A child identification program
• A ride along program
• Firearm applications
• Notary Public services
• Prescription drug take-back program
• Vacation watches
Local Police Departments
Yuma Police Department
The Yuma Police Department, located at 1500 South 1st Avenue, is comprised of the Patrol Bureau, Child and Family Crime Unit, Evidence and Identification Unit, Property Crimes Unit, Violent Crimes Unit, Narcotics and Street Crimes Unit, the Traffic Unit, the K9 unit, a School Services Unit, Combined Special Operations Group, Animal Control Services, Professional Standards Unit, Records, and the Communications 911 Division.
The officers in the Patrol Bureau are assigned to specific areas in the city and respond to calls in tghat area. They conduct preliminary investigations and handle the follow-up or turn the case over to a special unit.
The K9 Unit consists of five dogs imported from Holland, who are trained to locate various items. These dogs assist with narcotic detection, evidence searches, building searches, tracking, and the apprehension of suspects. The canine teams have 320 hours of training and then, they are certified by National Police Canine Association, the National Narcotic Detection Dog Association (NNDDA) and are members of the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association (ALCA). The Yuma County Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provided funding for four of the dogs. The funds came from asset forfeitures in criminal cases. The funds for the fifth dog were the result of fundraising by Yuma citizens.
The Traffic Unit consists of Civilian Investigators and Motor Officers, whose duties are to investigate vehicle accidents, enforce parking regulations, and maintain traffic for special events. They also offer child car seat inspections and present safe driving tip programs to groups. The Motor Officers enforce traffic laws and respond to calls for assistance or about a traffic complaint.
San Luis Police Department
The San Luis Police Department, located at 1030 Union Street, has a bike unit, a canine unit, a traffic unit, a criminal investigation division, a community relations officer, a school resource officer, and the communications division in addition to the regular patrol officers.
Patrol Operations is divided into four squads comprised of a sergeant and several officers. They respond to calls and patrol all 33 square miles of the city and areas on the outskirts.
The Traffic Enforcement Unit (TEU) is comprised of three full-time motor units, one full-time Transit Enforcement Officer, and four part-time Transit Enforcement Officers. These officers respond to traffic accidents and other traffic-related issues. They also maintain and enforce parking meters and traffic lights,
The Bike Patrol Unit (BPU) is comprised of several officers that patrol congested shopping areas, parks, and playgrounds to improve crime prevention, community relations, and illegal drugs enforcement. They also assist during parades and special events
The canine unit established in 2010 has two National Police Canine Association (NPCA) certified police service dogs. The teams receive training at the Arizona Department of Corrections Service Dog Academy and the United States Border Patrol Canine Academy in El Paso, Texas (CCEP). They continue to train an additional eight hours per week. The teams do regular patrolling, assist with searches, and participate in demonstrations.
Somerton Police Department
The Somerton Police Department, located at 445 East Main Street, is comprised of up to 25 officers assigned to the Patrol Division and the Investigations, Special Operations and Community Relations Division. The department also includes the 911 Communications
Center and the Records Division.
The Patrol Division has 15 officers. Their duty is to patrol the streets and respond to calls. To provide the city with the best protection, the patrol officers work 12 hour shifts.
The Investigations, Special Operations and Community Relations Division has three officers. This division handles criminal investigations and task force participation, but also includes the School Resource Officer and an Animal Control Officer.
Yuma County Jail
The maximum-security Yuma County Detention Center houses prisoners held before their trial, those at various stages of the trial process, and those serving court-ordered prison time. The detention center houses prisoners for the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Quechan Indian Tribe, and the Cocopah Indian Tribe. The Arizona Department of Corrections pays $38.09 per day to the detention center for each prisoner they place at the detention center. Other agencies pay $78.34 per day to the detention center for each prisoner they place at the detention center.
The detention center has a capacity of 756 prisoners. In 2017, the average daily prisoner count was 427, which was down about 5-percent from the 2016 average daily prisoner count of 450. There was also an 8.57-percent decrease in the female prisoner count from 2017 compared with 2016. The average daily juvenile prisoner count was under 1-percent of the total prisoner count and did not change significantly from 2016 to 2017. However, juvenile offenders have to be separated by sight and sound from adult prisoners, need closer supervision, and have to have an in-prison school, daily exercise, and special nutritional requirements.
Prisoners in the detention center are classified using theory criminal history, face-to-face interviews, psychological reports, and institutional behavioral reports. From this information, a high, medium, or low risk level is assigned. This process is continuously reviewed for each prisoner especially the institutional behavioral reports. The purpose of this assessment is to prevent violence, prisoner-on-prrisoner intimidation, and escape. It also helps qualify prisoners for programs.
The detention center provides a commissary store for prisoners. Proceeds from the store and other items for which prisoners are charged, such as phone calls, emails, voice messages, and remote visits, are used to provide items needed by prisoners, such as library books, educational materials, the Law Library, televisions, DVD players, and recreational equipment. Prisoners must purchase t-shirts, underwear, and socks from the store. They can also buy stationery, envelopes, stamps, health and beauty aids, and snacks. Online ordering is available so that family and friends can purchase items for prisoners, which eliminates packages needing to be searched and contraband getting past inspections.
Trinity Services Group has been responsible for providing meals for prisoners since 2007. In 2017, 518,366 meals were served with 36,542 meals provided to the Juvenile Detention Center that amounts to 1,320 adult meals and 100 juvenile meals per day. The average cost per meal was $1.12.
Laundry service at the detention center is managed by a civilian and staffed by female prisoners, who worked a total of 10,816 hours in 2017. Besides learning laundry skills, the employees learn time management, teamwork, and communication skills. In 2017, the laundry washed 372,870 pounds of laundry that is an average of 1,018 pounds of laundry daily at an average of $1.82 per load.
The detention center offers the following services to prisoners.
• Religious services including special diets and visits from religious leaders
• Legal material and a law library
• Reading material
• Self-help and life skills information
• Recreational materials
• Substance abuse counseling
• Notary Services
These services are provided by volunteers, who have been thoroughly screened.
The detention center offers educational programs for prisoners and their families that are funded by grants. For adults, the programs are to help them re-enter the community. These programs include acquiring a GED, learning job seeking and application skills, screenings for special education services, and self-study materials. In 2017, this program fulfilled 296 educational requests and one special education request. The detention center also offers a Kitchen Skills Training Program. For juveniles, there is a mandated secondary school curriculum. The curriculum consists of individualized education programs. In 2017, the program provided special education services to one juvenile, regular educational services for six juveniles, 17 high school credits, and one high school diploma.
Tours of the Sheriff’s office and the detention center are available to anyone over 18 to help educate the public on these departments.
Traveling to Yuma from Phoenix, Arizona
If you are in Phoenix and want to visit Yuma County and some of the locations mentioned in this article, here is the recommended directions for traveling from Phoenix to Yuma.
• Go west about 315 feet on West Washington Street until you reach 1st Avenue.
• Turn left on South 1st Avenue and proceed 397 feet to West Jefferson Street.
• Go east on West Jefferson Street for 1.6 miles.
• Continue on East Jefferson Street for 0.5 miles staying in the right lane.
• Turn right on the ramp to Tucson and proceed 0.3 miles merging onto I-10 East.
• Go 6.3 miles and stay to the left at the fork to remain on I-10 East.
• Continue 9.7 miles and take exit 164 to AZ-347 South or Queen Creek Road.
• Go 0.4 miles and turn right on AZ-347 South/North John Wayne Parkway/East Queen Creek Road.
• Continue on AZ-347 South/North John Wayne Parkway. Proceed 14.7 miles just past Arby’s and turn right on AZ-238 West/West Smith Enke Road continuing 20.2 miles.
• Follow West Maricopa Road for 19.3 miles and take the Phoenix Bypass Route for 0.8 miles.
• Then, proceed on East Pima Street for 2.4 miles.
• Merge onto the I-8 West/San Diego ramp and in 0.6 miles merge on I-8 West.
• Continue on for 112 miles until you reach exit 2 to US-95 North or 16th Street.
• Turn left onto US-95 South or East 16th Street.
• Go 1.1 miles and turn left on South 4th Avenue for 0.3 miles.
• Turn right at West 19th Street and proceed 0.2 miles.
• Turn left and in 131 feet, you are in Yuma.