Bill Richardson: This year marked the 10th anniversary of the abduction of 11-year-old Mikelle Biggs from her Mesa neighborhood. One minute she was there, the next minute she was gone. In the 1980s, there were two other noncustodial child kidnappings in the East Valley. Those children were found alive. None of the abductors were identified.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the abduction of 11-year-old Mikelle Biggs from her Mesa neighborhood. One minute she was there, the next minute she was gone. In the 1980s, there were two other noncustodial child kidnappings in the East Valley. Those children were found alive. None of the abductors were identified.
Due to grossly inadequate Arizona and Maricopa County criminal justice information systems, most police officers have no knowledge of these cold cases. There is a high probability the predators responsible for taking these children are hidden in those antiquated and dysfunctional storage systems.
In the Baseline Killer case, the suspect who terrorized Maricopa County for months had his behavioral DNA all over county systems. Yet Valley police and sheriff's deputies were unable to match up what they knew about his current behaviors with his well-documented criminal past.
How many predators are out there, getting away with criminal behavior?Far too many haven't been caught, and in large part due to the current criminal justice information systems.
Things are different in San Diego County, Calif., where they have a countywide connection of databases called the Automated Regional Justice Information System (www.arjis.org).
According to its Web site, ARJIS "was created to share information among justice agencies throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties. It's evolved into a criminal justice network used by 71 local, state, and federal agencies. The secure ARJISnet intranet integrates more than 6,000 workstations and is used for investigations, statistical information, and crime analysis. Its structure promotes data sharing and cooperation at all levels, from chiefs to officers to technical staff.
"ARJIS is responsible for major public safety initiatives, including wireless access to photos, warrants, and other critical data in the field, crime and sex offender mapping, and a system of applications that help users solve crimes and identify offenders. It serves as the region's hub for information sharing, exchange, validation, and real-time uploading of public safety data."
ARJIS' roots go back almost 30 years. It's overseen by the chiefs' and sheriffs' management committee of the San Diego Association of Governments.
What a novel idea, city and county governments and police and sheriffs' departments working together, sharing resources and information as part of a strategy for regional public safety.
In 1998, Maricopa County residents were lobbied heavily by the sheriff and Board of Supervisors to approve a one-fifth-cent sales tax increase to fund a countywide public safety initiative. County officials had to have our cash. Voters approved it. Part of the 20-year initiative - so far it's collected more than a billion dollars - was to build a criminal justice information sharing system.
But instead of following San Diego County's lead, Maricopa County created its own Integrated Criminal Justice Information Sharing System, or ICJIS. It doesn't even come close to San Diego's version. Taxpayers never got what they were promised, ICJIS bombed, is now reportedly short of cash, and we're still paying for it. Fees to cities for county law enforcement and correctional services have skyrocketed by millions of dollars in recent years.
And to top it all off, control of ICJIS has become the latest political football in the ongoing and financially wasteful political games being played out for the public by the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors.
All this while the Biggs case and so many others go unsolved. If Maricopa County had an ARJIS system, we just might know who kidnapped Mikelle.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.