The FBI numbers show that in the midst of the supposed crime wave, many other cities in the Southwest have had declines in crime similar to Phoenix. El Paso, Texas, just across the Rio Grande from a ferocious drug war in Juarez, where some 5,000 people have been murdered in recent years, saw almost no change in its own crime rate and remains one of the safest cities in the country, with only 12 murders last year. San Antonio saw violent crime drop from 9,699 incidents to 7,844; murders from 116 to 99. Compare that with a city like Detroit, which is a little bigger than El Paso and much smaller than San Antonio—and not exactly a magnet for job-seeking immigrants. Its murder rate went up from 323 in 2008 to 361 in 2009.
Why are Republicans Lying About the Border?
Last week a story streaked across right-wing news outlets. A headline at Fox captured the crisis, “Uptick in Violence Forces Closing of Parkland Along Mexico Border to Americans” The story was picked up by some of the more fringe elements on the right as well.
Despite the calamitous headlines there is, shockingly, far less than meets the eye here. The park in question is the Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a 118,000 acre park and in October 2006 they closed 3,500 acres over concerns of border smugglers. To recap, 3% of this park was closed some 40 months ago. Nothing has changed, nothing newsworthy has occurred and yet the right-wing puke funnel flogged this story for days.
One can’t help but wonder why? Why this story? Why now?
My hunch is that the right needed a new story about the supposed scourge of Mexican violence in the wake of FBI reports in late May which indicated that the Arizona border is not, in fact, a war-zone – and that crime is actually down. Remember, the border-as-war-zone meme was a driving force behind Arizona’s new immigration law. This is a critical narrative for Republicans who have never been shy about playing on white resentment and white fears to advance their political interests. Writing in Newsweek Christopher Dickey looks at actual crime statistics,
What the FBI chart actually shows is that the incidence of violent crime in Arizona declined dramatically in the last two years. After a spike in 2006 and 2007, the number in Phoenix dropped to 10,465 in 2008 and to 8,730 in 2009, which is lower than it was six years ago. Murders, which hit a high of 234 in 2006, dropped to 167 in 2008 and 122 in 2009…
Indeed, some law-enforcement officers in Arizona’s own border towns scoff at the new law. The murder of Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz by a suspected illegal in March, which added fuel to the furor behind the Arizona law, was the exception rather than the rule. According to The Arizona Republic, which cited the Border Patrol, “Krentz is the only American murdered by a suspected illegal immigrant in at least a decade within the agency’s Tucson sector, the busiest smuggling route among the Border Patrol’s nine coverage regions along the U.S.-Mexican border.”
As with so much in right-wing orthodoxy when one scratches the surface we fine, yet again, that the charges don’t stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny.
More interesting is what Dara Lind, writing at Matt Yglesias’ blog, uncovered,
There is at least one high-profile exception to the long-term statewide trend: Maricopa County, or at least the area under the rule of self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio. For years, Arpaio has been earning notoriety for putting immigration enforcement ahead of other law-enforcement priorities — a policy which will become the law of the land for all Arizona police once SB 1070 goes into effect at the end of July. But toughness doesn’t always get results. Even the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office recorded less violent crime in 2009 than it did in 2008, but that’s the first time crime has fallen in five years. And since 2002, as violent crime has fallen 12% across Arizona, it’s risen under Arpaio by a staggering fifty-eight percent.
Not all of Maricopa County is doing so badly — just the parts under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office. The local police departments watching Maricopa’s cities and towns are doing just fine. Phoenix, as Dickey notes, is a veritable success story, with a 14% drop in violent crime since 2002; other municipalities in the county, like Scottsdale (15% drop) and Mesa (30% drop), have been even more effective. It’s just the unincorporated parts of the county — the region under Arpaio’s purportedly iron fist — where violent crime has spiked so alarmingly…
Alternatively, of course, it could be the case that other law-enforcement officials in the state (from the chief of Tucson to the sheriffs of Pima and Santa Cruz Counties) are correct when they warn that Arpaio-like, 1070-like tactics cause crime to increase. Police officers who are forced to prioritize immigration enforcement have less time to investigate violent crime, and less help from immigrant and Latino victims and witnesses when they do. Indeed, as Conor Friedersdorf pointed out a few weeks ago, there’s plenty of evidence that Arpaio’s office has let its attention to public safety slip: the average wait time in Maricopa County for response to 911 calls is ten minutes, and arrest rates have fallen dramatically over the last decade and a half. To recap: more crimes, fewer arrests. What a role model!
So there you have it. The rationale for Arizona’s new law is utterly bogus. The tactics now in play actually serve to increase crime. And when all else fails the right will always resort to their old playbook and just make shit up.
Support Independent Journalism: “Like” The Faster Times on Facebook
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Amanda Bynes’s Behavior Revealed to Be Elaborate PSA
- 2 Obama Horrified by the Grammar in Our Emails
- 3 Monster Fart Prompting Management to Rethink “Open Office”
- 4 NSA Demanded Access To Un-Filtered Instagram Photos
- 5 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Ambushed By Alan ‘The Paper’ Rubinstein
- 6 ‘Licensed to Kim Jong Il’ Records 27th Straight Year Atop N. Korean Charts
- 7 ‘A/S/L’ Most Asked Question At Kaplan Online University Reunion
- 8 Vice Magazine Now Only Hiring Writers Who Fail Drug Test
- 9 Stanley Cup Final One Blowout Away From “Boston Massacre” Headline Outrage
- 10 Henry Cavill to be Replaced by Stack of Pancakes in “Man of Steel” Sequel