Richardson: Quit squabbling and serve the warrants - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Richardson: Quit squabbling and serve the warrants

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Posted: Friday, April 25, 2008 12:50 am | Updated: 11:11 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

"Warrants not sole domain of sheriff," read the headline in Tuesday's Tribune.

The story discussed who is responsible for locating and arresting Maricopa County's 40,000-plus fugitive felons who have outstanding arrest warrants that have been issued by the Maricopa County Superior Court. Some say it's the sheriff's responsibility, some say it's not.

I don't care who does it, just get the warrants served!

Someone needs to take the lead in locking up these known felons who travel from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, often committing new felonies while evading the Valley's two dozen police agencies.

Many of those wanted by authorities are career criminals and gang members who'll do just about anything, including killing a cop, to avoid detection and capture.

The suspects in the recent murders of two Phoenix police officers had outstanding Maricopa County felony warrants.

Arizona's massive fugitive population is a problem that will take serious, coordinated and nonpartisan leadership to solve.

What are Arizona and Maricopa County going to do about it? All of Arizona desperately needs a statewide strategy to attack crime, criminals and fugitives from justice.

Most Arizona police agencies still can't share real-time information. That's been discussed in many of my past columns, and that's all because Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Legislature refuse to cough up $2.5 million for a statewide information sharing program called CopLink.

CopLink could easily be used to search outstanding warrants for the most dangerous offenders and link that information with the appropriate police agencies.

The best we can get from our elected officials is the usual tough talk and made for TV dog-and-pony shows. Tough talk only scares the people who obey the law; action is what catches the attention of hardened felons. Arizona is becoming a dangerous place to be. With desperate economic times it's more important than ever to act, as crime will likely skyrocket.

Some public officials still refuse to partner up, coordinate services and share resources when it comes to fighting crime.

Policing has to have established priorities, strategic and coordinated planning and information sharing to be effective. Agendas that create emotion and fear can no longer drive statewide public safety policy. Arizona needs to change how it does police work.

The state's delegation of much of the responsibility for planning and coordination to the Arizona Department of Public Safety has failed due to serious legislative underfunding and an outdated policing model adopted in the '60s that doesn't properly support local law enforcement.

Something needs to change right now. A model sheriffs and police chiefs could easily adopt is the plan of attack that's been put in place by East Valley police agencies. which came together and developed a plan to share resources, assets, information and target felons through the East Valley Fusion Center that is housed at the Mesa Police Department. And it's working.

Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez is in the process of joining with East Valley chiefs to enhance his department's ability to protect Pinal County residents.

RICO asset forfeiture money has funded this project. There's an estimated $62 million in statewide RICO accounts waiting to be spent.

The East Valley Fusion Center has partnered with the U.S. Marshals Service to target career criminals and fugitives, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to go after criminal and illegal immigrants, and created the Violent Crime Impact Team with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to target armed felons. East Valley officers are also imbedded with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Fusion Center brings it all together, a model that has proven to work and could be easily replicated statewide with RICO monies.

And when it comes to fugitives, since February, East Valley Fusion Center agencies and the U.S. Marshals Service have captured over 200 wanted felons in the East Valley. Mesa police alone have made 515 arrests for violent felony crimes during the first three months of 2008.

According to David Gonzales, the U.S. marshal for Arizona, in 2007 over 6,000 fugitives were arrested statewide by deputy marshals and the U.S. Marshals fugitive task forces.

I've heard all of the excuses, know most of the players and have done much of the kind of work that needs to be done. It's time for those in charge from Napolitano on down to get serious about attacking crime in Arizona on a statewide basis using a proven strategy.

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

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