Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and children of all ages, once again it's show time.
Performing for your entertainment this week is the renowned TAG Team of Thomas, Arpaio and Goddard. Once again we're going to be treated to the state's master showmen of elected law enforcement officials.
The first act was Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who started the week's entertainment by rounding up "deadbeat dads" on Valentine's Day. Joe stole for show. The sheriff gave us the same old schtick, including his world-renowned growling for the camera, as he showed off another catch of low-hanging fruit chained up in pink handcuffs. If you're easy to find and arrest, he'll track you down and parade you around like you're Charles Manson, even if your charged with a cracked windshield.
Not to be outdone, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who wants to be governor, dragged out his signature cause of cold pills and meth in an attempt to hog Joe's limelight. Even though meth is now controlled by the Mexican drug cartels and local lab seizures are down from more than 200 in 2002 to less than a dozen in 2007, Goddard is out beating that same old cold pill drum for the crowds.
If Goddard chose to, he could easily lead the reform of Arizona's outdated and inefficient statewide law enforcement system and attack organized crime. Instead he follows Arpaio's example of picking the easy ones that make for good sound bytes and pretty pictures.
And bringing up the rear is Arpaio groupie and another governor wannabe, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Thomas also never misses an opportunity to get media attention. The politically ambitious lawyer announced that he has decided the victimization of elderly citizens deserves the attention of his office. He's just figured that out?
Unfortunately for Thomas, the attorney general's office has for decades taken the point on these types of difficult, costly and lengthy prosecutions. Arpaio's dutiful sidekick and legal muscle may want to bite the bullet and pass off the prosecution of elder abusers to the pros and stick to going after the minnows that's he's shown a real vocation for. For all the tough talk and macho bravado, Thomas doesn't worry the sharks in the sea.
While the TAG Team was jockeying for local headlines to promote their own agendas, the Los Angeles Times ran another story as part of their series on the Mexican drug cartels and organized crime gangs that are destroying Mexico and spreading though the United States. The Feb. 12 story was titled "Phoenix, kidnap-for-ransom capital," more national and international recognition of Arizona's steady decline.
According to the Times, there were 366 reported kidnappings in Phoenix alone in 2008. The word "reported" is key because just like with sexual assaults, many more go unreported. And while there are those who will beat the anti-immigrant drum and blame the problems on undocumented aliens, kidnappers from around the world target anyone with the ability to pay a ransom. Kidnappings might soon be coming to a neighborhood near you. They may already be there and you just don't know it. Mexico is only 90 minutes away.
Kidnappings are used by organized crime to get cash and instill fear.
The Times also reported that Arizona has become the new drug gateway into the United States. Maricopa County has long been a major transshipment point for drugs from Mexico. Sadly, the TAG Team's show only distracts the public from the real threat of organized crime that the U.S. Justice Department reports is responsible for 80 percent of the crime in America.
Organized crime has only prospered under the Tag Team's rule. Instead of fixing what's broken and doing the jobs the public voted them into office to do, our elected law and order watch dogs are continually groveling for free publicity to satisfy their political ambition and insatiable quest for attention.
If you want protection, buy a gun and get a dog because the TAG Team is primping for their next media appearance.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.