Richardson: Tempe must step up fight on ‘big city’ crime - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Richardson: Tempe must step up fight on ‘big city’ crime

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

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 9:42 am | Updated: 10:44 am, Sun Dec 16, 2012.

The jury was out just 40 minutes before it came back with guilty verdicts against Joseluis Marquez for murdering Arizona State University student Kyleigh Sousa during a 2010 robbery in the downtown Tempe area as she walked across the street from a police station.

Marquez, who led a gang of career criminals, faces life in prison when sentenced on Dec. 14.

Sousa’s death was the first of three murders in 2010 that cost the lives of college students in the notorious downtown Tempe area.

Three senseless murders committed by career criminals in a community whose crime problems continue to be in the headlines.

On Nov. 21, a young woman was found murdered not far from where Sousa died. And on Nov. 30, an ASU student, who was drinking illegally at a popular Tempe bar during a fraternity function, went missing. His mother, not police, found his distinctive red shoe nearby.

In the Nov. 28 Arizona Republic story, “Property crimes edge up in Mesa, Tempe,” police spokesman Sgt. Mike Pooley “attributed Tempe’s high crime-rate ranking to the large number of visitors who come into the city for Arizona State University and entertainment venues.” Tempe has historically blamed ASU and others for its crime problems.

In an Oct. 26, 2012 email from Tempe City Hall to all city employees, Police Chief Tom Ryff tells co-workers, “We are a big city with some big city problems and we can employee (sic) the resources that a bigger city can develop to solve problems. At the same time we are a small town that won’t let negative elements take over our small town.” Ryff went to say “Tempe is situated in-between two much larger cities, we have four major freeways, two large malls, and one of the nation’s largest public universities.”

Tempe’s crime rate, according to the FBI, is 21 points higher than Mesa’s, 10 points higher than Phoenix’s, the two cities Tempe is “in-between.” Phoenix and Mesa also have freeways, malls, college campuses, and a wealth of visitors within their jurisdictions.

According to the Arizona Republic’s City Comparison Guide, Tempe has nearly the same number of police officers per 10,000 residents as Phoenix, more officers than Mesa and spends more on policing than both cities.

Even with plenty of officers and funding, Tempe headlines are about the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, violence between warring street gangs, downtown crime, sex crimes and murders.

Recent headlines involve gang fights between ASU fraternities in Tempe apartment buildings. The Dec. 6 Arizona Republic story, “ASU fraternities frustrate police in Tempe,” has Sgt. Pooley, describing one recent fraternity crime spree as a “gang style assault.”

KPHO Channel 5 reported on Dec. 6 that “records show Tempe police responded to known fraternity addresses more than 150 times since August. This is a hot topic in Tempe right now; it is being discussed by the mayor, council, police and ASU officials.”

Tempe has a one major crime problem after another.

Has the time come for Tempe residents to ask Sheriff Joe Arpaio to send in his deputies for crime suppression sweeps to get a handle on crime?

Does the mayor and city council need to ask the feds to send the U.S. Marshal and Drug Enforcement Administration to Tempe to target career criminals and drug dealers? What about asking Gov. Jan Brewer to order the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s GIITEM Gang Unit to Tempe to target gangsters?

U. S. Marshals, deputy sheriffs and state troopers are known to strike fear in the hearts of criminals, and they get results.

Tempe has good street cops but is the police department’s homegrown “small town” leadership ready for “big city” crime?

As Kyeligh Sousa’s family finally sees justice done, the time has come for Tempe to do all it can to make sure no more moms and dads have to bury a child they send to Tempe to get a college education.

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