“Okay, we know what the writer thinks is wrong. Does he have any idea what to do about it?”
An EastValleyTribune.com commenter, “Catskinner” posed that question in regard to my Sept. 4, commentary (“Richardson: New McCain/Flake dog and pony show neglects border problem that’s already here”; read the column at evtnow.com/5ub
Here’s my response:
For those of us who attended school in Arizona, we learned the “Five Cs” of the state stood for “Copper,” “Cattle,” “Cotton,” “Citrus” and “Climate.”
Today they increasingly stand for “Cartels,” “Contraband,” “Cash,” “Crime” and “Criminals.” The “Five Cs” have changed and some of the biggest reasons are statewide law enforcement is underfunded, unorganized and in some cases even unqualified to take on the problem of crime, especially organized crime.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety 60 percent of serious crime in Arizona is linked to organized crime. The U. S. Department of Justice reports the percentage could be higher.
The first rule of organized crime is to operate where there is minimal risk and maximum return. That’s Arizona.
Once upon a time, statewide policing in Arizona operated under the umbrella of a single state-policing agency. Today there are almost twenty state agencies with approximately 2,000 officers doing their own thing including investigating organized crime. Throw in over 100 city and county law enforcement agencies doing their own thing, and its easy to see why organized criminals, from street and prison gangs to the Mexican cartels love doing business here. Like I said in the Sept. 4 column, Mexico based organized crime “runs with the precision of Wal-Mart and makes money like Wall Street.” Too often law enforcement runs like a swap meet.
One only need look at the current state of the Department of Liquor License and Control where only a dozen of so agents are responsible for enforcing the liquor laws at over 10,000 locations. Bars have long been locations for investment by organized crime and where criminals gather and crimes from dealing dope, to prostitution and money laundering are committed. Arizona has turned a blind eye to the serious problems that have historically surrounded bars.
The state’s massive under aged drinking problem is the just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to failed liquor law enforcement.
At one time dozens of officers DPS once did a fine job targeting liquor laws and related criminal activities. Not anymore. One can only wonder why?
Also gone from DPS’s once successful anti-crime format are the hundreds of officers who successfully worked narcotics, prescription drug abuse, prison gangs, motorcycle gangs, white supremacists, criminal intelligence and white-collar crimes.
Arizona has become a destination for organized crime in large part because state government dismantled what worked. Thanks to years of neglect and mismanagement, Arizona has put out the welcome mat for crime and criminals.
The criminal element has become increasingly more organized and sophisticated and segments of law enforcement haven’t kept up. Mediocrity has become an acceptable policing standard for some.
In order to fix what’s broken the state needs to admit organized crime is here, growing and operating with impunity.
It’s been years since Arizona presented any real threat to them thanks in large part to the state’s not having a single well-funded state agency responsible for investigating organized crime.
Arizona needs to design and fund an agency that’s solely responsible for the investigation of organized criminal activities. Within that agency there must be a statewide system to collect, analyze and share criminal intelligence on organized crime. Currently, Arizona can’t even track basic criminal activities, much less the sophisticated criminal enterprises run by gangs that move from community to community.
Fixing the problem is as simple as making a well led and all out attack on organized crime a statewide priority and creating and properly funding a state agency to lead the charge.
But I won’t be holding my breath until Arizona fixes what’s broken. Sadly Arizona has become a state that’s increasingly known for breaking things that once worked great.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.