Richardson: Promise in recent crime stats - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Richardson: Promise in recent crime stats

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Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2008 6:07 pm | Updated: 12:00 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The preliminary 2007 FBI crime figures are out. East Valley cities are reporting an average reduction in serious crime of 5.5 percent. Tempe had the biggest decrease with a 9.82 percent drop.

An examination of the 2004 and 2006 FBI crime numbers showed crime was down during those two years on average by 6.51 percent.

According to FBI reports during the same periods, crime was up 8.28 percent in the unincorporated areas of Maricopa County. The 2007 county figures haven’t been released yet, and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office officials didn’t return inquiries by press time.

Politicians who beat the law-and-order drum will be boasting loudly at the next election of how they’re responsible for the reduced crime figures.

Two police spokesmen said crime is down because of what one sergeant called a “go get a bad guy” attitude and another said it was “the aggressive measures agencies use to deter potential criminals.” Maybe, maybe not?

Nationally, experts have any number of reasons crime is down across the country.

I’ll heap plenty of credit on the local street officers and police leadership, who really have begun to change the way policing is done. Good cops plus good leaders plus good cooperation equals lower crime.

Last week, Mesa Police Chief George Gascón and Scottsdale Chief Alan Rodbell were asked to address a meeting of ranking officials from the National League of Cities. The topic, the East Valley Fusion Center and public safety cooperation. The news about the East Valley’s innovative leadership and the exceptional street-level policing has obviously spread nationwide.

Elected Maricopa County law enforcement authorities have chosen not to join forces with the East Valley multi-agency policing project.

Now is the time to double-up the attack, share even more, shift gears and move forward.

Estimates are that 750,000 prison inmates nationwide will be getting out of prison this year and returning to a community near you. Arizona has more than 50,000 inmates in state and federal prisons. Most released inmates will go back to prison, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they’ll use criminal activity to support themselves until caught and sent back to the joint.

Newly released convicts are smarter and more dangerous than when they first went in. Many now have nothing to lose and have no fear of the police.

With the growing wealth and power of international drug cartels and the hundreds of tons of illegal drugs hitting the streets, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to prosper from criminal activity.

Now is also the time to build on past successes and fully explore the use of the latest proven technologies to identify criminal activity, crime patterns and begin the enforcement process as soon as possible.

With a shrinking pool of qualified police applicants and increased costs associated with employment, especially overtime, communities may not be able to sustain their fight on crime without advanced technological partnerships.

Better information collection and closer coordination between police and correctional facilities is essential. Involvement of correctional peace officers in the safe streets equation will be a key component in taking on ex-convict career criminals.

Gov. Janet Napolitano’s recent executive order calling for an all-out attack on career criminals and wanted fugitives will also play a critical role in the next chapter of reducing crime across the East valley and throughout Arizona. The plan calls for law enforcement officers from the U.S. Marshals Service, Arizona Department of Public Safety and police agencies from across Arizona to identify, locate and arrest career criminals and fugitives.

This cooperative plan is a major step forward in a statewide anti-crime strategy. Yet some have chosen not to participate. Shame on them.

The next step needs to be linking all police agencies via the CopLink information sharing system to support enforcement operations.

The news in the East Valley is good, for now. Recent change is showing positive results for most communities, but still more needs to be done. The war hasn’t been won yet.

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