Phoenix's Police is Un-American in His Criticism of Arizona's Immigration Law!

Does Arizona's new immigration law provide a tool to help Phoenix stop being the Kidnap Capital of America? Let's listen in, via Media Matters, to the city's top cop:

It provides a tool to divert our officers from investigating property crimes and violent crimes and divert their -- these resources, our personnel to enforcing civil portions of federal immigration law. In other words, it takes officers away from doing what our main core mission of local law enforcement is, and that's to make our communities safe and enforce our criminal codes in that effort.

Partial transcript, full video here.

And what about Phoenix's newfound props as "The Kidnapping Capital of The United States"? I'd be interested in getting an authoritative ranking from any vaguely reliable source of, say, the top 10 towns in the U.S. Because you know what? Just as with many factoids (literally, things having the shape, though not necessarily the reality, of facts), this one is more disseminated than substantiated.

But let's assume that it's totally true that Phoenix has more kidnappings (or its subset, "ransom kidnappings") than New York, Miami, Washington, you name it. Check this out from the LA Times in February, 2009:

More ransom kidnappings happen here than in any other town in America, according to local and federal law enforcement authorities. Most every victim and suspect is connected to the drug-smuggling world, usually tracing back to the western Mexican state of Sinaloa, Phoenix police report.

Arizona has become the new drug gateway into the United States. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on the state's 370-mile border with Mexico.

One result is an epidemic of kidnapping that many residents are barely aware of. Indeed, most every other crime here is down. But police received 366 kidnapping-for-ransom reports last year, and 359 in 2007. Police estimate twice that number go unreported.

Most every other crime here is down. Most every victim and suspect is connected to the drug-smuggling world. What Phoenix has is an organized crime problem due to the war on drugs, not a "Oh my god the landscapers and burrito folders are busting into my house to haul away my kids for white slavery" sort of problem. Which isn't to deny that kidnapping isn't always and everywhere a problem. And how much suffering is encoded in the word most, which implies many fully innocent and unawares victims. But if Arizona and Phoenix want to get a handle on this specific sort of crime, the first step is addressing drug prohibition's perverse outcomes. When's the last time you heard of a Mexican gang trafficking in contraband Corona Light snatching people off the street?

More about Phoenix's kidnapping wave, one of the main impetuses behind Arizona's immigration law, which will accomplish little more than expanding police power in a way that even the chief of police doesn't want (see above):

Last month, crime analysts corrected the 2008 total the department shared with Congress and other federal authorities earlier in the year. The number was 368 when politicians used it earlier this year when requesting federal stimulus money to combat border-related violence. Phoenix recently revised the number to 359.

A handful of kidnappings were either classified as other crimes or considered false reports, police said.

For example, relatives of a woman who was arrested at a home in the Palomino neighborhood near 26th Street and Greenway Road told police she was led away by a group of unidentified gunmen. The men were actually agents from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement who had come to the home to arrest the woman on an immigration violation. Still, the report was filed as a kidnapping, detectives said.

That's from The Arizona Republic in January, 2010 and it's a pretty strong testament to the difficulty of getting reliable data on the issue under discussion, much less an authoritative ranking of The Top Ten U.S. Cities For Kidnapping, etc. And what about border violence? That's not rising, either.

If Arizonans want to stop the violence, their best bet is to change drug laws, not immigration laws. Which is something activists there have tried to do for decades, including winning a slam-dunk medicalization ballot initiative in 1996 that was later overturned on a technicality.

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  • LibertyBill||

    Change the drug laws, and enforce the existing immigration laws is a better idea.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Citizenship is a privileged. Deport everyone back to Europe and restore North and South America back to nature and the Native Americans. Anything else is racist.

  • Wooly Mamoth||

    Native Americans? Back to Siberia!

  • AJs||

    What if my ancestors are from multiple countries and continents? Where do I get sent to?

  • jkp||

    France.

  • ||

    Not sure I want to know where that guy's finger has been.

  • ¢||

    Which is something activists there have tried to do for decades

    Oh bullshit. Name one.

    You "tax my fraudulently prescribed weed" prohibition-for-thee assholes don't count.

  • Brett L||

    This situation is why I'm for rigorous enforcement of existing law. If the Federal law had been enforced as written, it would have long been found unacceptable and changed (or not, and there would be far smaller pool of illegals for public outrage). Instead everyone acts surprised and offended when ignoring the downside became untenable and a substantial plurality of Arizonans got fed up enough to motivate the politicians. Enforcing bad laws is the only way to get them changed. Ignoring them allows them to stay on the books for arbitrary harrassment and legal intimidation.

  • ||

    My prescription:

    (1) Legalize marijuana, and start the long road to legalizing other recreational drugs.

    (2) Reform immigration laws to a "high fence, wide gate" approach. Enforce them.

    (3) Untold riches!

  • ||

    The illegals are self deporting to other states so the crime rate will go down in AZ... drug related and otherwise. I am all for legalizing any substance a person is dumb enough to put into their body but let's not kid ourselves. You can't have a foreign occupying force with the entitlement mentality of the current illegal immigrant crop come into an area and not get a spike in crime. A socialist country cannot have open borders... especially when it sets next to a failed state like Mexico.

    This is why libertarians have trouble making any electoral gains... too much emphasis is put on legalizing drugs. Everything is seen through the prism of that one issue.

  • ed||

    In other words, it takes officers away from doing what our main core mission of local law enforcement is

    Shooting dogs? Eating doughnuts? Why can't they multitask like the rest of us?

  • ||

    What Phoenix has is an organized crime problem due to the war on drugs, not a "Oh my god the landscapers and burrito folders are busting into my house to haul away my kids for white slavery" sort of problem.

    Spoilsport.

  • ||

    And this:

    police received 366 kidnapping-for-ransom reports last year, and 359 in 2007. Police estimate twice that number go unreported.

    indicates either turf wars or an attempt to steal illegal cash based on the expectation that the victims will pay up and not tell the police about the trash bags of drug money in the basement.

  • Parker||

    So, these are basically "intramural" kidnappings?

  • Jersey Patriot||

    You can't have a foreign occupying force with the entitlement mentality of the current illegal immigrant crop come into an area and not get a spike in crime.

    Illegal immigrants poured into America during the 1990s, even as violent crime plunged. The numbers have bounced back somewhat, but nowhere near where they were in the late 80s/early 90s.

  • Andrew||

    Keep in mind that (now former) County Attorney Andrew Thomas had a policy of filing kidnapping charges against individuals involved with running and maintaining drophouses. This artificially inflated the kidnapping statistics as well.

  • pollero||

    Like this one?

    "These people were always drugged, always armed,” said Daniel. “They would play with us and with the guns. They would click their cartridges; stick their guns in our mouth. They would put the barrel of the gun to the back of our heads. They'd pull the trigger. When our families couldn't pay, they mistreated us even more. On different occasions they called by phone and they would beat us so that our families could hear what they were doing to us."

    http://www.kpho.com/news/23439509/detail.html

  • Andrew||

    I fail to see how that proves that every single person involved with maintaining or running drophouses is actually kidnapping someone. Are some of those people kidnappers? Yes, as your link shows. However, the inflation of kidnapping statistics comes from charging everyone involved with kidnapping.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    BTW, never turn your back on a Guerrero.

  • ||

    The last two links lead to the same story, the one about violence not being up. Please fix the link to "overturned on a technicality".

    Thanks.

    I love Reason.

  • Dirk Deppey||

    So, wait: If Arizona were to change its drug laws -- but no one else did -- all drugs would magically start coming from approved sources, and violent groups like MI-15 would go away? Armed Latin American drug gangs would stop trying to use Arizona as an entry point?

    Also: Ransom kidnappings aren't real kidnappings?

    Look, I've got all kinds of problems with our state's new stance...

    http://deppey.com/?p=58

    ...but your weird-ass need to fit a complex and baffling set of problems into a neat, ideologically safe solution is exactly the reason why, when asked, I always refer to myself as a Goldwater Conservative rather than even a little-l libertarian. I no more wish to associate myself with you guys than I do the Republicans. Neither group has more than half a foot in reality.

    Seriously, Ditch the neo-Maoist Little Red-White-and-Blue Book and admit that no philosophy can possibly encompass the weirdness of the world. You'll stop looking so ridiculous, and big-L Libertarians might actually start being taken seriously as a political force.

  • Dirk Deppey||

    MI-13, not MI-15. Do excuse me.

  • ||

    I think you mean "MS-13."

  • Dirk Deppey||

    D'oh!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mara_Salvatrucha

  • ||

    If Arizonans want to stop the violence, their best bet is to change drug laws, not immigration laws.

    Good luck with that. They're going to have better luck shaming the Feds into enforcing federal immigration law than convincing them not to enforce federal drug laws.

  • ||

    And here I am agreeing with you twice today. Nick's "solution" to the problem, correct or not, is an example of the impractical idealism to which libertarians (and others) often fall prey. Even though I agree with drug legalization, the idea that it would be a solution to Arizona's crime and illegal alien problems is a huge stretch and just won't fly in normal democratic politics.

  • Dirk Deppey||

    In theory, the closest thing to a "simple" solution is (1) better enforcing border security, (2) a massive increase to the allotted number of issued green cards and successful citizenship applications per year, and (3) drug legalization. But even one of these projects would be a maddening uphill battle, and all are effectively Federal issues, not state issues. Nick is giving the wrong people the wrong lecture -- and without even a token strategy for implementation, a lecture isn't enough in any case.

  • ||

    You didn't give any statistics disputing the claim that Phoenix is the #1 kidnapping city. You seem to be saying the quality of the kidnapped people mitigates the seriousness. That's not real PC.

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