Richardson: Busting pawn shop exemplified Mesa PD efforts - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: Busting pawn shop exemplified Mesa PD efforts

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:07 pm | Updated: 11:48 am, Fri Apr 18, 2014.

“Mesa Mayor Scott Smith praised the investigation as an example of a Mesa police philosophy that targets career criminals who are responsible most crimes. He said crime in Mesa is down to a 40-year low and that street level drug sales are down 19 percent.”

Arizona Republic April 15, 2014: "Police: Mesa pawnshop acted as 'marketplace for gang members"

Mesa police took down the pawnshop after a lengthy undercover operation that led to 16 arrests and the seizure of almost 300 guns. The pawnshop was an illegal gun supermarket for known gang members.

Smith has every right to praise the Mesa Police Department and its philosophy to target career criminals who we know are responsible for as much as 90 percent of serious crime, according to the U. S. Department of Justice. Smith also has every right to take a bow for his understanding of what good police work and leadership is and for his and the city council’s demands for excellence in policing in Mesa. They also get a big "atta-boy" for continued support of Mesa PD’s professional efforts to go after those who commit the crime.

Mesa is a prime example of what can happen when the elected policy makers, especially the mayor like in Smith’s cases, take a leadership and supportive role in designing a safe community for residents, businesses and visitors.

The fact that under Smith’s leadership crime is at a 40-year low in Mesa, and that’s with budget cuts and a decease in resources, is a testimonial to what can be accomplished when you combine good political leadership with good professional and empowering policing leadership. The policing leadership comes from Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead, a veteran street cop from Phoenix who Smith selected to lead Mesa PD four years ago.

Cops are only as good as their leadership.

Having the right political support from city hall and having a chief who understands and appreciates what policing is all about is a gift fewer and fewer officers get in their careers.

Mesa’s success extends beyond the most recent bust by Mesa finest.

In a Jan. 2 East Valley Tribune story, “An annual crime report issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) shows Mesa’s continued decline in crime rate has made it one of the safest cities of its size in regards to certain crimes. According to the FBI’s 2012 Uniformed Crime Report, Mesa ranked third in the nation for cities with a population of at least 400,000 when it comes to violent and property crimes. Those two crime classifications, which fall into the FBI’s Part 1 category, include homicide, burglary, rape, theft, robbery, stolen vehicles and aggravated assault.”

The Mesa model of targeting career criminals can easily be adopted statewide.

While Mesa shines when it comes to public safety success’ Glendale and Tempe continue to struggle with high crime.

According to an April 11 story by KPHO News, Tempe, Glendale ranked among most dangerous U.S. suburbs: “Tempe and Glendale are perched among the nation's most dangerous suburbs in a national real estate blog. The Movoto real estate blog analyzed crime data for 120 suburbs across the U. S. Glendale ranked seventh in the Top 10 list. Tempe ranked as the eighth most dangerous suburb.”

Glendale and Tempe officials dispute the results.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers and Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell would be wise to ask Mesa’s Smith for advice when it comes to fighting crime.

Mesa’s finest along with the mayor and chief need to take a bow. Once again Mesa PD leads the way in 21st Century crime fighting.

Needless to say I’m extremely proud of my old department, it officers and civilian support team. A department that once struggled to see beyond the city limit line and was culturally averse to change and innovation now sets the pace for modern policing in Arizona.

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