Richardson: Will Arizona stop being common grounds for career criminals? - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Richardson: Will Arizona stop being common grounds for career criminals?

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 2:47 pm

On March 4, career criminal William Thornton, who was wanted by police for an outstanding felony warrant and was a suspect in an attempted murder, shot and killed Phoenix Police Detective John Hobbs during an attempt to arrest him. A second detective was seriously wounded.

Thornton, who just got out of prison in January and whose prison record dating back to 2001, died in the gun battle. Thornton is a career criminal.

The cases involving career criminals, a person who lives a life of crime and has a history of incarceration, killing and attacking police officers and correctional staff are too many to list.

All too often, career criminals have warrants for their arrest. On that same day, the Arizona Republic reported “There are currently 25,000 felony warrants — not including federal warrants — in Maricopa County alone, according to Arizona U.S. Marshal David Gonzales.”

“But for even those criminals without violent histories, the prospect of a capture often carries a certain degree of desperation," Gonzalez said. "Many of them have nothing to lose. The main issue with arresting fugitives, especially career criminals, is that they’ve done time in prison and they do not want to go back. Especially if they are carrying weapons, which is a violation of probation or parole, they will do anything to get away from police. Monday’s tragedy appears to be the classic case of a career criminal who knew he was about to get arrested and did not want to return to prison at any cost.”

Deputy U.S. Marshals in Phoenix have been involved in three deadly shootings in recent weeks involving career criminals who wanted to shoot it out with law enforcement rather than return to prison.

The story also noted, “In Maricopa County last year, there were more than 50 officer-involved shootings by early November, up from 47 in all of 2012, records show. According to an FBI report released late last year, more officers in Arizona were assaulted with a firearm in 2012 than at any point in the previous five years.”

“Arizona has become a destination for criminals from other states,” Gonzalez said.

In the 2003 FBI Bulletin article, Career Criminals, Security Threat Groups, and Prison Gangs, An Interrelated Threat By David M. Allender and retired Arizona Department of Public Safety sergeant Frank Marcell, the authors said, “Career criminals have no boundaries; they reside in every state. They migrate to communities that afford them opportunities to pursue their criminal activities.”

In a 2010 study done by former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley it was determined that 60 percent of officers killed in Maricopa county between 2003 and 2010 were murdered by convicted felons.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety has said repeatedly the majority of Arizona’s serious crime can be traced to gang members and career criminals.

Maricopa County has become Arizona’s most fertile ground for career criminals and is becoming a killing field for police officers.

The enemy that police officers face every day continues to grow in strength, power and confidence. The threat is real and we have the dead and wounded officers to prove it. Career criminals have evolved to become formidable adversaries.

The time has come to stop the political tough talk, grandstanding, made-for-TV news conferences, warm-and-fuzzy police programs and the idea that black-and-white police cars and pink underwear will scare the bad guys away. Good law enforcement isn’t a show.

Its time for action.

Felons with outstanding arrest warrants need to be rounded up and arrested as soon as possible. A person with an outstanding arrest warrant presents an extremely dangerous threat to the public and especially to police officers, whether the contact is just in passing or during an arrest situation.

Marshal Gonzales said, “Fugitives will continue to commit crime until caught.”

Career criminals who are at war with society need to be the primary focus of law enforcement anti-crime efforts.

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