Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley plans on forming a new unit by early summer that specializes in identity theft.
The Valley ranked first nationally in identity theft victims in 2003, and the average victim spends more than $1,000 to cope with the damage, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Romley said the new unit would give prosecutors expertise in the area and reach out to police departments to develop protocols for investigations that often cross jurisdictions. The protocol would help settle issues among law enforcement such as which agency should be the primary investigator. The unit also would work to toughen laws and change court rules to make it easier to prosecute cases.
Romley persuaded the Arizona Supreme Court to change a rule of evidence that required a record custodian of a victimized company to testify and bring records to admit as evidence to court.
Often the custodian was not immediately available, which created a problem. The new rule allows for affidavits to be used instead of live testimony.
"This problem is so serious that I’m beginning to consider that it may be appropriate that there be a mandatory prison term for these types of crimes," Romley said.