The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and police departments Valleywide have banded together in the battle against identity theft, developing a protocol they say will be more effective in fighting the crime and provide better service to victims.
Before Wednesday’s announcement of the Maricopa County Identity Theft Jurisdictional Protocol, signed by 18 chiefs of police, County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it was common for cases to fall through the cracks because of jurisdictional issues.
"My sense is it was a significant problem. That’s what I heard from prosecutors in the office, that’s what I heard from police officers I knew," Thomas said with 28 police executives surrounding him at a news conference.
The new compact calls for the agency that receives a complaint of identity theft from a victim to make an initial report. That agency will be responsible for the investigation if no other agency assumes it.
The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area led the nation last year in identity thefts per capita, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Thomas said the protocol was needed because identity thieves purposefully would commit their crimes in different cities to throw off police and cause jurisdictional chaos.
For example, a thief might steal an identity in one city and make a fraudulent purchase in another.
The victim would then report the crime to the police department in the city where he or she resides, but there would be no follow-up with the city where the other crimes took place, or the report would be passed around from city to city, said Lt. Craig Chrzanowski, who leads Scottsdale Police Department’s fraud and identity theft unit.
"The victims were really victimized a second time," Chrzanowski said.
Phoenix police Sgt. Jason Davis said departments tended to want to pass ID theft investigations on to another agency because "everyone is very busy," leaving victims to be bounced around from agency to agency.
"A lot of times they gave up," Davis said. "It never got reported and it never got investigated. This new protocol will help with that. The victim should be able to call just one agency and get that report and if that agency isn’t going to investigate it, they should be able to get it to an agency who will."