The police chief had stolen the spotlight, and the sheriff was furious.

It was a scorching hot day in late June, and dozens of demonstrators had turned up at a Maricopa County services complex in Mesa to protest the sheriff's immigration-enforcement tactics. Dozens more Mesa police officers monitored the situation, with most exploiting the shade of a nearby parking garage.

For Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed tough guy seeking his fifth term in office, it was supposed to be a banner day. For two months, Arpaio had threatened that he would ram one of his so-called "crime-suppression sweeps" down the throat of Mesa Police Chief George Gascón, the sheriff's most high-profile critic in law enforcement.

Mesa Police Chief George Gascón
Jamie Peachey
Mesa Police Chief George Gascón
Social Eye Media
Jamie Peachey
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith calls George Gascón "the best man for the job."
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith calls George Gascón "the best man for the job."
LAPD Chief William Bratton was Gascón's mentor.
LAPD Chief William Bratton was Gascón's mentor.
Gascón inspects his troops on June 26.
Jamie Peachey
Gascón inspects his troops on June 26.
Mesa police analyze recent crimes at a public CompStat meeting.
Jamie Peachey
Mesa police analyze recent crimes at a public CompStat meeting.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio's June 26 sweep in Mesa brought out demonstrators on both sides of the immigration debate.
Jamie Peachey
Sheriff Joe Arpaio's June 26 sweep in Mesa brought out demonstrators on both sides of the immigration debate.
Jamie Peachey
Jamie Peachey
Jamie Peachey
Gascón, dogged by the media, explains that he means to keep the peace on the first day of Arpaio's "sweep."
Jamie Peachey
Gascón, dogged by the media, explains that he means to keep the peace on the first day of Arpaio's "sweep."
Jamie Peachey

Gascón had publicly insisted that Arpaio give him notice of any such incursion, and on Tuesday, June 24, the Sheriff's Office delivered a letter to the Mesa PD saying a raid would take place two days later.

To refer to what Arpaio and his deputies have been doing as "sweeps" to prevent crime is far from the truth.

The sheriff's enforcement efforts in Phoenix, Guadalupe, his hometown of Fountain Hills, and Mesa have been little more than roundups of Mexicans and anybody who looks Mexican. Arpaio's deputies have used a special arrangement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency like no other local police force in the country.

His ICE-trained deputies focus on dilapidated vehicles and the most minor traffic violations in the hope of stopping — and ultimately getting deported — people who are in the country illegally. The heavy-handed tactics have brought accusations of racial profiling from civil rights leaders and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

A politician who at first steered clear of the immigration debate, Arpaio has tried to tap into the frustration over illegal immigration that has caused voters over the past four years to deny certain rights and public benefits to undocumented residents.

Gascón, a Cuban immigrant and a former assistant chief at the Los Angeles Police Department, had already bumped heads with the sheriff over a November roundup in Mesa, ordering a spokesman to slam Arpaio for his high-handed tactics. Gascón continued to egg Arpaio in the press, sniping that the sheriff "can't keep his jails open, yet he can arrest cooks and gardeners."

When Arpaio, and the news media, tipped off Gascón to his upcoming plan for another sweep in Mesa, the chief was ready.

The sheriff had planned initially to make an appearance at the operation's field headquarters, a county office near Baseline Road and U.S. 60. But Gascón swamped the area with 132 Mesa police officers. They worked in shifts because of the extreme heat, most on foot and some on bicycles, in cars and on building rooftops.

Whether it was Gascón's intention or not, the show of force made the Sheriff's Office look like the puny kid on the block — a wimp who needed George Gascón's protection.

The chief told the news media that he had meant only to provide security for both sheriff's deputies and demonstrators, mindful of the civil unrest that had brewed in recent months during similar protests in central Phoenix and Guadalupe.

"While they were in Guadalupe, the sheriff himself stated publicly he had moved his command post the second night because he felt that their safety was in jeopardy," Gascón told New Times in an interview after the Mesa sweep. "We wanted to make sure that their safety in the city of Mesa was going to get protected."

As deputies in patrol cars fanned out across the city looking for illegal immigrants, demonstrators at the corner of Lewis and Javelina Avenue chanted "Si se puede," held signs that likened Arpaio's deputies to Nazis, and rallied with the help of a portable stage provided by Radio Campesina.

The event pulled in far fewer demonstrators than the 400 expected by Mesa police, but it was attended by pro-immigrant, anti-Arpaio heavy hitters, from activist Salvador Reza to Democratic candidate for sheriff Dan Saban.

About 4:30, Gascón emerged from his portable command trailer to check on his troops. Tall and lean in his dark-blue uniform, wearing stylish sunglasses beneath his crop of silver hair, he strolled across the street followed by the news media. The crowd of protesters on the corner hooted and cheered when they caught sight of him. Suddenly a celebrity, Gascón smiled.

Apparently not wanting to be upstaged at his own operation, Arpaio chose to bluster to news reporters from the security of his headquarters in downtown Phoenix's Wells Fargo Center — 20 miles away from the action. Before TV cameras, he appeared crazed with anger at the surprisingly more media-savvy Gascón. He had been beaten at his own game.

The sheriff has been ticked off a lot lately.

He was livid in May when Governor Janet Napolitano took away more than $1 million in state funding for his immigration operations, and he was spitting mad at the mayor of Guadalupe who, after his operation there, got in his face, firmly telling him his sweeps are not welcome in her heavily Latino town.

But getting trumped by Gascón, a Hispanic immigrant, put him over the edge.

One local newspaper described Arpaio as "red-faced" with anger that night at his downtown offices. He lashed out at the chief for "leaking" to the public when the roundup was to commence.

Yet the publicity-obsessed sheriff had never asked Mesa to keep the raid secret.

In fact, rumors of the Thursday sweep had been spreading since the previous Sunday, but, according to Mesa PD spokeswoman Diana Tapia, the MCSO had denied that any raid was planned.

Gascón and Tapia tell New Times that the letter that was hand-delivered Tuesday by a sheriff's deputy came within minutes of calls by reporters who knew about the written warning.

If there was a leak, then, it seems to have sprung from Arpaio's office — which is typically how the sheriff operates, to maximize his face time in front of cameras.

Nonetheless, Arpaio played the role of martyr, claiming Gascón had screwed up his operation by talking "garbage" and swarming the area with city cops. He told a radio station that Mesa police did not want him in their town, did not want him "lockin' up illegals," and that he would not give any notice the next time his forces went there.

The reason he did not show up in Mesa, Arpaio said straight-faced, was that he had been playing a "game" with protesters.

In truth, the game had been between him and Gascón.

And Gascón had won.

It was yet another example of Gascón's leadership, the same attribute that got him hired as chief of police in the first place.

He has encountered just one big problem since his arrival in Mesa: He has led the city in a direction that a lot of its citizens do not want it to go.

It is a safe bet, according to Mayor Scott Smith, that most Mesa residents support Arpaio's position, not Gascón's, on how law officers should deal with illegal immigrants. After all, Mesa is home to Russell Pearce, the state lawmaker behind tough legislation targeting illegal immigrants, including two proposed statutes (dead, for now) that would force police to become immigration agents.

Gascón's opponents are numerous and vocal.

And to get at Gascón, they are not afraid to make it personal.

Gascón tells New Times a "really interesting letter" was mailed to his Mesa home a few weeks ago.

"There's some wackos out there. There really are," Gascón says. "Some people have an interest in tracking me down."

The anonymous note was not a threat, exactly, he says. It was a simple message:

"We know where you live."


Mesa did not set out to hire an immigrant rights activist as its police chief.

In fact, Gascón's talents — what got him hired — are getting overshadowed by the boisterous, seemingly unending debate over immigration. Of course, he has thrown plenty of gas on that fire, and scores of e-mails and phone calls have poured into City Hall from people who do not like the chief because of his outspoken opinions.

Despite his public sparring with the sheriff and the bad feelings many Mesa residents have about him, city leaders (new Mayor Smith, particularly) have stood behind the chief.

The reason is, Mesa desperately needed an exceptional police chief, and the city believes it has found one in Gascón.

Mesa can be a rough town, belying its stereotype as a bedroom community filled with peaceful Mormons. Violent crime and meth use plague its older neighborhoods. Armed robberies are a near-daily occurrence. Economic woes contribute to the crime problem.

The town has more than 460,000 people and no property tax. It has spent the past few years trying to cope with decreasing sales tax revenues and a lack of new job-creating businesses. With severe budget shortfalls have come slashed city jobs and cuts in services. Whatever the concern over crime, the police department has been told not to hire more officers until further notice.

Then there are the Mesa PD's internal problems, which were out of control before Gascón was hired in 2006.

One former officer says the department before Gascón was defined by a culture of corruption that too often went unchecked by superiors. In the worst cases, the former officer says, there were internal allegations of theft and drug use, and even officers having sex with informants. A "good ol' boy" network at the top of the chain of command was resistant to change, which allowed problems to fester.

The two chiefs preceding Gascón, Jan Strauss and Dennis Donna, who had come up through the ranks, presided over the scandals — including a slew of discrimination complaints and a debacle in which one out of every five of the department's 1,300 employees was disciplined for sending inappropriate e-mails.

The city conducted a nationwide search and found Gascón, a 28-year veteran of the LAPD. He had an impressive résumé, and it was Mesa's good fortune that Gascón had been passed over for the police chief's job in the nation's second-largest city.

The LAPD has 10 times the number of sworn officers as the Mesa department, and Gascón had been in charge of field operations. That meant he commanded 8,000 of the big-city force's 9,500 sworn officers — more cops than in all the Valley's police departments put together.

He did stellar work at the LAPD. Because of Gascón's efforts on an innovative crime-fighting system called CompStat, current L.A. Police Chief William Bratton credits him with helping reduce the rate of violent crime in Los Angeles.

To better entice Gascón, Mesa upped the annual salary of police chief from $144,000 to $170,000.

The added expenditure seems to be paying off. As of July 1, crime had dropped 15 percent in the East Valley City since Gascón's arrival, while arrests for violent crime went up by 38 percent.

Yet, though it appears Mesa is lucky to have Gascón, many residents are highly critical of him.

Online comments and talk show call-ins have flowed in from people who think Gascón is too liberal for his new municipality.

Arguably, Gascón would have a tough time if he were to run for sheriff of right-leaning Maricopa County, but even some conservatives respect him. Indeed, Arpaio has been his only high-profile critic.

"He's very professional, even when he's been caught in the middle of this Sheriff Arpaio thing," says Rich Crandall, a Republican state representative from Mesa. "He's not [openly critical on] the level of Phil Gordon. The statements [Gascón] has made, I agree with more."

Next to Arpaio, a populist former DEA agent who uses publicity stunts and harsh talk to garner public support, Gascón is a highly educated, intellectual cop, reminiscent of a character in a smart detective show ("good po-lice," as the righteous cops called each other in The Wire).

He is not against controlling illegal immigration; he is just against the tactics Arpaio has employed.

The reality is, Gascón is bringing about changes that make it easier for Mesa police to initiate the deportation process against illegal aliens.

On July 2, the city announced new police policies that put it more in line with its larger neighbor to the west, Phoenix.

Mesa cops still will not be allowed to inquire about the immigration status of people stopped for civil traffic violations, much less target immigrants for cracked windshields and tail lights (as Arpaio has done). But anytime Mesa police arrest people on misdemeanor or felony charges, officers can now question them about their immigration status. If police believe somebody is in the country illegally, they must notify ICE. That means some suspected illegal immigrants, who previously might have been booked for misdemeanors and released, will face longer detention and possible deportation.

George Gascón may be liberal by police standards, but he is still a cop.

And because new policies and laws are making it tougher to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona, Gascón and his department will enforce the new order professionally.

The biggest difference between him and Arpaio is, he will be extremely careful to avoid any appearance that his officers are stopping people for driving while brown. Because, from his point of view, everything starts with constitutional rights.


Gascón stepped into the ring with Arpaio before he even got to Mesa.

While he was still working for the LAPD, the Washington Post interviewed him for an article published May 20, 2006, about Arpaio's efforts to arrest as many illegal immigrants as possible. Gascón provided an opposite viewpoint to the sheriff's. Victims and witnesses, he explained, would be less likely to report crime if they believed talking to local police would result in deportation.

Gascón took a direct shot at Arpaio, stating that most "professional" law officers, as opposed to politicians like Arpaio, know the value of policies that prohibit police from becoming immigration enforcers.

After that, as local news reports continued to mention that Gascón's name was on the short list of candidates for Mesa police chief that year, a miffed Arpaio attempted to exact revenge. One source describes how the sheriff "sent his goons out to different police departments, and the [East Valley] Tribune and the [Arizona] Republic, to talk about how Gascón was this illegal alien-lover."

Publicly, Arpaio griped that Gascón had "badmouthed" him.

Which was certainly true.

Gascón, in interviews with New Times, says there is nothing personal in the feud between him and Arpaio. He insisted that it made him uncomfortable when the anti-Arpaio crowd of demonstrators cheered him.

"That's not what this is all about," he says.

But when he explains what this is all about, his cool, lawyerly analysis belies an air of righteousness.

"I never came with a sense of mission — I've been thrust into a situation, a mission, of higher order," he says. "People don't seem to grasp that there are some serious social and constitutional issues here that are at stake. If we allow one group of people to be treated with less than the full rights [within] our constitutional framework, then we all lose."

People send him e-mails saying illegal immigrants have no rights. Yet the courts have ruled that the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law applies also to people who have come to the United States illegally. Gascón finds it "extremely concerning" that some citizens want to trash the Constitution when it comes to groups or messages they do not like.

The anti-illegal-immigrant crowd feeds into what Gascón calls the "three-ring circus" of unreasoned debate and publicity stunts at the expense of undocumented workers. The sheriff, he says, is the "ringmaster."

Gascón continues to state emphatically about Arpaio, "He's not a professional law enforcement officer."

During the sheriff's two-day Mesa operation, Gascón felt it was his responsibility to ensure, "at least in the areas that we control, that policing here is done in a lawful manner."

However, he did not go so far as ordering his officers to tail the sheriff's deputies as they hunted illegals, and he never actively monitored deputies' behavior. Moreover, Gascón has never uttered the words "racial profiling" in regard to the sheriff's sweeps in his city, or elsewhere.

But he does question how it could be that nearly half of the people arrested by deputies on June 26 were illegal immigrants.

"If you follow all the rules, it's difficult to reach those results," Gascón says.

There are many who say Arpaio has crossed legal lines. The highest-profile among them, Mayor Phil Gordon, called on the FBI in June to investigate the Sheriff's Office for what he called a pattern of "discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests." A Justice Department official went to Mesa to observe the sheriff's operation there.

It should be noted that ICE and County Attorney Andrew Thomas have signed off on Arpaio's sweeps, saying they are within legal limits.

But Gascón is more than worried about them. He talks of how police exist in the United States to protect, not to oppress — especially to protect the rights of minority groups from abuse by the majority.

In the context of Arpaio's sweeps, it is apparent that Gascón views Arpaio and some of his supporters as a significant danger, though he chooses his words carefully.

"There have been tremendous abuses of power by one group or another over the years," he says. "Many times, the police have been the instrument of that abuse. That's my concern in this whole dialogue."


It is obvious where Gascón got his passion for civil rights and his zest for supporting immigrants — he and his family are refugees from Fidel Castro's Cuba, one of the last bastions of communism.

Gascón was born in 1954 into a blue-collar, lower-middle-class family, living most of his young life in a suburb of Havana and dreaming of one day flying jet fighters. His mechanically inclined father helped keep the assembly line moving at a local brewery until he was fired soon after an arrest for alleged subversive activity. Gascón's family members were "strong anti-communists," he says, and his uncle was a political prisoner for more than 20 years.

"My parents made it very clear we were not part of that system," Gascón says.

When he was 13, the family of six fled the country in one of the hundreds of "freedom flights," a program Castro employed from 1965 to 1971 to fly out nearly 250,000 political opponents. Gascón's family settled with relatives who had earlier fled to Los Angeles.

Culture shock set in quickly for Gascón, who spoke only Spanish. He had been an excellent student in Cuba, recognized in national scholastic competitions for his language skills. In L.A., Gascón flunked numerous classes at Bell High School, but not physical education. He soon took up surfing.

He recalls that he said so little during his first three months in science class that the teacher once screamed that he must be on LSD.

"I asked the girl next to me to tell him I didn't speak English," Gascón says. "[The teacher] was very apologetic."

Gascón says he has never tried illegal drugs, and was never much interested in getting drunk, unlike many of his peers.

"I like being in control all of the time," he says. Plus, drinking has never been a novelty to him. In his family, children could drink wine at an early age (standard practice in Cuba).

"At age 11, we mixed wine with water," he says with a laugh.

He dropped out of Bell High during his senior year and joined the Army, where he served three years and obtained a high school diploma. One of his best friends, Sergio Diaz, had joined the LAPD in 1977, and Gascón followed him into the department a year later.

Ambitious and now proficient in English, as well as in Spanish, Gascón left the force after a few years, got a job as a sales manager at a local Ford dealership and earned a bachelor's degree. He returned to the LAPD in 1987 after getting his law degree from Western State University in Fullerton, California. That is when his career really took off.


If there is anything that sums up Gascón's past decade of police work, it is his obsession with training. Not the kind that involves pop-up bad guys on a shooting range, but the type of deep-down, macro-scale training that prepares cops for tough, ethically challenging scenarios and sharpens an entire department's ability to tackle crime.

A 2002 LA Weekly article, titled "Rewriting the Book," described Gascón and Diaz as key players in an attempt to change police culture in L.A. The department had become, in Gascón's words at the time, "very arrogant" both to outsiders and to rank-and-file officers. This was in 2000, after the infamous police misconduct scandal involving the department's Rampart division. Gascón and Diaz started teaching officers ethics and critical thinking, and they examined past mistakes of L.A. cops to guide them in how to proceed further.

Perhaps his biggest contribution to the LAPD was his improvement of CompStat, a system championed by New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, who became chief of police in LA in 2002.

But Bratton's becoming chief was a missed opportunity for Gascón. Ranked a commander at the time, he had been one of 50 candidates to apply for the job vacated by Bernard Parks, who lost a bid for a second five-year term in the aftermath of the Rampart scandal. (Parks went on to become councilman of L.A.'s 8th District).

Two police associations, one black and the other Hispanic, backed Gascón to become the first Latino police chief in L.A.

"I had no intention, initially, to compete," Gascón says. "I was asked to compete by a lot of people."

But the mayor picked Bratton, whose experience was far more extensive. Gascón says he would have picked Bratton, too.

"There was no way I would've been able to deliver what he did," Gascón says.

Bratton made Gascón one of his three assistant chiefs. Over the next three years, crime in L.A. plummeted, as it had under Bratton's leadership in New York. Critics doubted that the drop was solely because of the police force, but Gascón and Bratton linked it to their system that sets hard goals and holds police supervisors accountable for less-than-stellar service.

Then, in late 2005, Bratton announced that he intended to seek another term as chief in 2007. He had the support of L.A.'s new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

That meant Gascón would not be chief anytime soon. He was bent on running a police department somewhere, and Bratton, by then his mentor, helped him find a place where he could do that.

"Mesa wasn't living up to its potential," Bratton says. "It was deemed to be an organization that needed some assistance."

One of Gascón's biggest requirements, though, was that he could not be too far from his family in California. He is divorced, but his adult children still live there. Mesa seemed perfect — it had its own crime lab and big-city challenges, even if it was tiny compared to Los Angeles.

Asked whether Gascón might be trying to prove himself in Mesa so he could return to L.A. in a few years as chief, Bratton predicted that helming the Mesa department "is not going to be his last police job."

Gascón says he does not know what the future holds, but he came out to Mesa to make a difference. And he already has.

Besides holding supervisors accountable (classic CompStat), he has ordered more detectives and officers to work late nights or weekends to focus resources when the most crime occurs — a move, he says, that has saved $1 million in overtime costs.

Within his first year, the pressures of the new environment caused 10 of 14 top supervisors to retire. Whether he thinks it improved his department to remake the command staff is a sensitive topic.

"I don't want to cast aspersions," he says. "There's no question there were some early on who were not a fit, and they recognized it, and that doesn't necessarily make them bad.

"They're not incompetent, bad people — it's just, you know, things evolve."

One of the assistant chiefs who retired under Gascón, Dave Zielonka, says he has nothing but high praise for the chief. Yet it was not always easy to work for him.

"He's probably the most challenging boss in the world to work for," Zielonka says. "He's very driven. His standards are extremely high, and he expects his command staff to live their jobs as their lifestyle."

After 28 years on the force, Zielonka figured it was a good time to take his pension.


On the morning of Joe Arpaio's latest Mesa immigration sweep, uniformed officers and plainclothes detectives pack a community meeting room at Mesa's Utilities Department. As if at a sales meeting, they sit around a u-shaped array of folding tables. Police staff members, officers from other police departments, and a few members of the public sit in nearby rows of folding chairs. Projection screens at one end of the room display computer spreadsheets with crime statistics and a picture of Commander Andy Alonzo, who oversees the Dobson Precinct.

A detective in the precinct stands at a lectern, getting grilled by Assistant Chief Mike Dvorak about the recent unsolved rape of a 17-year-old in Mesa.

The detective says he is waiting for DNA results on the suspect to come back from the crime lab.

"Where is it on the priority system?" Dvorak demands.

"Last I heard was, 'Don't call the lab and say hurry,'" the detective replies.

Dvorak tells him firmly to check with the lab.

"Yeah, I could call the lab," the detective admits.

Over the course of several hours, police supervisors and employees discuss crimes in detail, examine response times and clearance rates, plan the flow of communication among various police divisions, and analyze statistics.

Bratton, who brought CompStat from New York to L.A. before Gascón brought it to Mesa, believes firmly in its power to affect crime. While in New York, he bantered publicly with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani as to who was more responsible for that city's decrease in crime rate in the 1990s.

Basically, CompStat is a holistic approach to crime fighting that uses computer statistics (thus the name) to analyze crimes and arrests. Top managers set priorities for reducing the crime rate and hold lower-level employees responsible for achieving the goals. At the semi-monthly CompStat meetings, supervisors look at problems in depth to determine the best use of resources. It is like corporate culture applied to police work, not much different from McDonald's analyzing how many hamburgers it sold today to determine how many it will need tomorrow.

"What CompStat is all about is putting emphasis on a particular problem," Bratton says.

Gascón is a true believer in the system.

"There's no question that police can, in fact, have an impact on crime and reduce crime," he says. "I'd like to think we've actually proven that in Mesa."

Numbers, however, can be tricky to interpret. Though overall crime in Mesa has fallen 15 percent since Gascón has been in town, FBI statistics released in May show that aggravated assaults and robberies have continued to rise. Even though the number of homicides and rapes fell slightly in 2007, Mesa's rate of violent crime, as a whole, went up, even as the crime rate declined in most other Valley cities.

Assistant Chief John Meza, Gascón's second-in-command, says the department has set a hard goal of bringing overall crime numbers down 10 percent by the end of the year. He knows it will be difficult — a lot of the robberies of late have been random "street jumps" that are impossible to predict. One recent bulletin by Mesa police described how a woman, walking to her car at 5:30 one May morning, was jacked by three men who jumped out of a pickup truck, pointing shotguns and demanding money.

Meza touts the fact that arrests for robberies are up 72 percent over last year. The reason, he says, is the improved communication, questioning, and accountability instituted by Gascón. It is not about punishing people — just "holding them to task," Meza says. He talks at length with commanders about where robberies are occurring and changes plans accordingly. The system Gascón instituted breeds a "we're all in this together" spirit, he says, that makes it easier to pull in squads from traffic or other police units.

Not that CompStat has worked well everywhere. A 2003 report on how it worked at the Lowell Police Department in Massachusetts describes how "scarce resources and a veiled sense of competition made commanders reluctant to share resources with sectors that were hardest hit by crime."

In Lowell, the report says, some commanders were less likely to try new ideas out of fear of a public whipping at the CompStat meeting if they did not work out.

Reducing crime rates is a common goal with CompStat. But crime rates are driven by a long list of causes — not to mention that they are subject to statistical manipulation. In 2005, a Los Angeles Times article calls out Bratton and Gascón for publishing figures that included a 28 percent drop in violent crime for the previous year, even though they knew a change in the way domestic-violence crimes were counted made that figure bogus.

However, once the reporting changes were taken into account, the number of violent crimes still went down substantially, according to the article.

Mesa may yet see a dramatic decline in crime over the next few years because of Gascón's programs. But there is a snag: The resources needed to keep the department effective are being slashed.

Gascón's "State of the Department" report in August 2007 concluded with the idea that Mesa needed to invest more in its police force to keep up with the city's growth. He suggested that Mesa build new police substations and boost the number of officers He called the current 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents "insufficient."

In January, though, city officials (hit with budget problems similar to what other local governments are experiencing) told Gascón to look for more than $7 million in budget cuts. For now, at least, the chief must figure out how to make CompStat work on the cheap.


Though Gascón says he has been a workaholic his whole life, he does take time off now and then. He dines out with his girlfriend, jogs to keep fit, and drives Arizona's backcountry in his off-road vehicle.

And, sometimes, he uses his free time to annoy his ideological opponents.

Last October, Gascón penned an opinion column to counter the propaganda of extremists. The article, which appeared in the Arizona Republic and the East Valley Tribune, focused on his belief that illegal immigrants do not commit crime out of proportion to their overall presence in society.

Claims about the crime among immigrants ring personal to Gascón, the Cuban exile.

"I take issue when people go after immigrants as a source of crime," Gascón tells New Times.

Of course, the opinion piece did not go over well with right-wing extremists, some of whom continue to believe undocumented residents are behind a vast crime wave in Mesa and the rest of the country. Gascón wrote that he had heard it said that 90 percent of serious crime in Mesa is committed by illegal immigrants.

The extremists are wrong.

Statistics obtained by New Times clearly show that illegal immigrants make up a small minority of those arrested in Mesa.

The figures show that Gascón could be wrong, too — but just barely.

Gascón's essay hinged on the fact that about a quarter of Mesa is Hispanic, and about a quarter of the people Mesa police arrested last year were Hispanic. Therefore, illegal immigrants, who make up only a part of the Hispanic community, cannot be committing crimes at a rate higher than Hispanics, in general.

A better way to figure out what is going on is to check the percentage of suspected illegal immigrants actually being arrested by Mesa officers. Since about the first of the year, the department has been asking crime suspects about their immigration status. In response to a New Times public-records request, Mesa police counted all the times arrestees confessed to being in the country illegally over a three-month period.

From February to April of this year, 201 suspects out of 2,555 admitted to being here illegally. That works out to just under 8 percent, and the estimated population of illegal immigrants in Arizona is 8 percent.

So far, Gascón's theory is holding up.

But, on a month-by-month basis, the picture looks different.

Breaking the numbers out shows the percentage of admitted illegal immigrants who were arrested rose from 6 percent in February to 10.7 percent in April. By extension, if Gascón is correct, these figures roughly match Mesa's population of undocumented residents in those months.

But it seems unlikely that the population of undocumented residents in Mesa nearly doubled in three months. It is also a stretch to think that, in any month this year, illegal immigrants made up nearly half of the 25 percent of Hispanics in Mesa.

Using some of the same evidence as Gascón did in his essay, it would make sense that illegals commit crime slightly out of proportion to their numbers. In his article, he states that "undocumented immigrants are disproportionately poor, young, and male: statistically, the group most prone to be involved in crime."

In fact, the actual number of undocumented people arrested in Mesa is likely even higher than the "self-reported" number, acknowledges Assistant Chief Meza. After all, suspects often lie about their immigration status.

Before the city changed its policy this month, many illegal immigrants probably knew that if they just kept their mouth shut, they might be cited and released for a misdemeanor rather than be turned over to ICE.

Tapia, the Mesa police spokeswoman, says the department does not update its records after suspects are booked into Maricopa County jails, which verify all inmates' immigration status in coordination with ICE. In other words, Mesa does not double-check to see how often arrestees are lying about their status.

Phoenix does check, however. In an April column in the Republic, Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris discusses, among other things, how many suspects Phoenix police booked into jail turn out to be illegal immigrants. His numbers show that more than 13 percent of Phoenix arrestees are undocumented.

Daily inmate figures from the MCSO routinely show upward of 20 percent of the jail population is undocumented. But many of those inmates are awaiting trial (and have not yet been convicted of a crime), and illegal immigrants do not make bail as often as citizens, which makes their numbers increase over time.

At the Arizona Department of Corrections, more than 14 percent of inmates were foreign nationals as of June 1. Nolberto Machiche, the DOC's media spokesman, emphasizes that a notable portion of these inmates were in the country legally when arrested, though he says he does not know how many. His records do show that ICE currently plans to deport 2,600 inmates, or about 6.7 percent of the total.

If numbers provided by the Mesa PD and the DOC prove anything, it is that the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by U.S. citizens.


Statistics aside, it would be naive to say illegal immigrants, especially those in the smuggling trade, do not cause special problems for police.

The question is, what to do about it.

Gascón's approach is to keep everything in perspective, based on the most current data.

"If you put anything more than 10 percent of your resources on the problem, you're not able to focus on other problems," he says.

Mesa Mayor Smith agrees that police should take a measured approach to illegal immigrants, not a wasteful one based on the emotional outcry of certain community members.

And certainly not one that views the illegal immigrant as Public Enemy Number One.

"We need to enforce the law, but in America we have rights," Smith says. "We don't want to sacrifice our rights to achieve a short-term solution."

Gascón says he has no problem with Mesa's new immigration policy for police. He believes it will give officers another tool to catch the worst criminals, though he will be monitoring the situation to avoid any racial profiling by his officers. All officers will be trained in the new policy over the next four months, before it will go into effect.

But even as Mesa begins treating illegal immigrants differently from other suspects, Gascón is resolute in his opposition to those who "dehumanize" a portion of the population with harsh rhetoric. He compares the propaganda spread about illegal immigrants to how Nazis made Jews scapegoats for Germany's problems before World War II.

And he is not afraid to call Christians who treat illegals poorly "hypocrites."

Gascón knows his opinions do not please many Mesa residents.

"Somebody sometimes has to make a stand, even if it's unpopular," he says.

Gascón may not be able to change the minds of anti-immigration zealots in his city, but his sophisticated policing methods may yet change Mesa for the better.

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31 comments
Georgia
Georgia

I am soooo tired of the Cesar Chavez and the ignorant mobs that follow his ranting. Include in that Ray Stern. Sheriff Arpaio is guilty of deporting not just illegal aliens (and they ARE aliens) but hard core criminals from Mexican prisons. When he takes these people of the streets dont you think it helps control crime? Duh!This is a political stab at making it impossible to stop the flow of all these people who come illegally across the border. it is an invasion from Mexico because that government has NEVER done anything for their people....the poor. Go to the source of the problem: the Mexican Government!!

BajaRat
BajaRat

Gascon is an open-border-promoting Mexican dirtbag that used to work for LAPD. If there was ever any reason to call a cop a pig, Gascon is it. He ought to be deported.

Illegal aliens are criminals and parasites, one and all. Their very presence here and practically everything they do on U. S. soil is illegal. They need to be ferreted out, rounded up like cattle, punished for their numerous crimes, then booted back to whence they snuck in from with such extreme prejudice that they will never, ever think of violating our sovereignty again. Enough is enough.

Joey
Joey

Spoken like a true mindless idiot.

Fred
Fred

Gascon believes in harassment of good working families as much as criminals--just so he can get his job done. He closes his eyes to the "blue wall" and lets things slide so long as they "get the job done." He believes in the oldest excuse there is "the ends justify the means." I can not look at him without thinking about how he abuses the system. Just take the air patrol everyone says they feel safe seeing. Harrassment by air cops to push a family over the edge. They want to insite crimes so they can finish a vendeta. Gascan thank goodness--not my cities Chief of Police--sorry, CHiefia de la Policia. Remember this is the new New Mexico.

A Legal Citizen
A Legal Citizen

Christ, it depresses me to see how many people blindly line up to suck off Arpaio because he's "tough on crime!!!". He's wasting taxpayer money paying for Honduras' national security and catching brown people. He's not doing jack to keep the county safe with this immigration bull (unless you're afraid of brown people) and the sooner he's finally lost his grip on Maricopa, the better. I can't wait until Sun City finally doesn't wake up on election day.

Bob Downs
Bob Downs

What a stupid hit piece on the Arizona Sheriff.

We need a lot more Sheriff Joes in this country. The othernit wit mentioned in the article is a product of the brokenjustice system in California.

In my book, Joe is doing his job and is mindful of the citizens and their tax dollars. These other clowns should probably be in jail for not doing their sworn jobs.

Shock And Awe
Shock And Awe

Good work but it's time to start looking at Corrput Scottsdale now. The crooked city prosecutors, the worthless mayor and abusive cops and the judges who make it all possible. IMO, start with Judge Orest Jejna.

THE REPEATER
THE REPEATER

Emil,

Because of the mad traffic we get on our 16 sites, we must use a cache system to serve out dynamic pages in a static fashion, or we'd suffer major slowdowns on publish days and other high-traffic events. When a comment or review gets posted, the cache file for that particular page gets re-created, and then distributed across our network. What you're seeing when you get inconsistent counts on comments is the load balancers working faster than the cache propagation.

FYI, we have a link at the bottom of each page titled 'Problem with the site?', which will get lazy IT fuck eyes on a problem a lot faster than mentioning it in a story comment.

Sarah L
Sarah L

Joe is doing what the community wants...enforcing the law!

Lazy IT Fuck
Lazy IT Fuck

Emil,

Because of the mad traffic we get on our 16 sites, we must use a cache system to serve out dynamic pages in a static fashion, or we'd suffer major slowdowns on publish days and other high-traffic events. When a comment or review gets posted, the cache file for that particular page gets re-created, and then distributed across our network. What you're seeing when you get inconsistent counts on comments is the load balancers working faster than the cache propagation.

FYI, we have a link at the bottom of each page titled 'Problem with the site?', which will get lazy IT fuck eyes on a problem a lot faster than mentioning it in a story comment.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

P.S. Another problem is that going to the New Times site, clicking on this story, and then clicking on "show all" (to display the complete text of the story) reduces by 1 the number of comments shown to exist. I don't know how long that will last, but as of now it occurs consistently.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Dear "Lazy IT Fuck",

It's a little early for congratulations. Because after seeing my comment posted as the 20th (WITH carriage returns inserted, mirabile dictu), I checked back a little later for new comments, by hitting the refresh icon, to find that there are now only 19th comments listed again. After several additional clicks on the refresh icon, there are again 20: and there is my comment at the end again. But going to the main menu and then clicking on this story returns the number to 19 and makes that 20th comment disappear yet again. I noticed the same problem with Sarah Fenske's article Green Machine some time ago.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

How nice that Concerned Legal Citizen came all the way from Tampa, Florida just to share his rabid opinions with us. If you don't like it here, why don't you go back home? (Just my little joke.)

There is, alas, one effing big problem with your claim that Ray Stern's article is "just a bag of panzie-ass, bleeding-heart liberal dribble to throw on the bullshit pile" because "a country that stops maintaining its borders eventually stops being a country".

The problem is that defending the borders is the job of the U.S. Border Patrol and other federal immigration authorities, not the job of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Maricopa County doesn't even share a border with Mexico. (Yuma, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Cochise counties do.)

If the U.S. Border Patrol stood idly by and allowed unfettered immigration without respect to U.S. law, you might have a point. But it doesn't. And while the MCSO has, on occasion, a legitimate auxilliary role to play in enforcing immigration law, Uncle Joe's "sweeps" don't qualify.

Furthermore, they don't begin to make a dent in illegal immigration. Perhaps you don't understand that arresting roughly two dozen illegal immigrants once a month in these so-called "crime sweeps", is merely a publicity stunt in a state containing more than half a million illegal immigrant workers. All these sweeps do is waste scarce law-enforcement resources that could be better spent on operations targeting serious crimes, instead of pulling over countless random, brown-skinned individuals without reasonable cause, in order to discover a few illegal immigrants among them. Operations such as reducing the backlog of outstanding felony warrants on known and dangerous, but unarrested, habitual criminals; or collecting police intelligence to target professional, recidivist criminals; or virtually anything else that might have a more beneficial effect on public safety than pulling in a handful of otherwise law abiding dishwashers, maids, landscapers and other dogsbodies.

But of course, you can't see this, because your concern isn't really crime or the law, but racist paranoia.

Concerned Legal Citizen
Concerned Legal Citizen

"the frustration over illegal immigration that has caused voters over the past four years to deny certain rights and public benefits to undocumented residents"

WTF?!?!?! "Undocumented resident?!" Way to doctor it up, Ray. They are in the country illegally. There is nothing more to it. Call them what they are: Illegal.

If you are an ILLEGAL ALIEN who skirted our laws on purpose, you do not deserve the RIGHTS and privileges of a legal citizen of the United States. That isn't to say that you deserve to be left in the street bleeding, but why on earth would you deserve benefits given to hard-working, LEGAL citizens?! That's idiotic.

Hell, let's just give up on protecting our borders. You're right, Ray. Let's just get all lovey-dovey and let them all in. Who cares?! Really, what's the big deal anyway, right? So, a couple of whack-job terrorists or convicted murders or what-have-you's walk across the unchecked border... You'll still let your kids go play at the park, right? Sure, there's absolutely nothing to worry about when anyone can just waltz into the country.

Idiot. This is just a bag of panzie-ass, bleeding-heart liberal dribble to throw on the bullshit pile.

A country that stops maintaining its borders eventually stops being a country.

Queeny
Queeny

Gascon is an arrogant scumbag. He should NOT be wearing that uniform. He's a worthless rent-a-cop who has no interest in protecting Mesa and its CITIZENS. He is a shame to the force. He's nothing but a media hog like the rest of the useless politicians these papers trail after like dogs.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Ken, the "stare down" description, while mildly hyperbolic, is essentially accurate. Arpaio had previously engaged in a war of words in the media, criticizing Gascon's policies and approach, and asserting his preeminent authority to do as he wished, without proper notification or coordination, despite the expressed wishes of the local Chief of Police and in violation of professional protocol and courtesy. Arpaio had also planned to take control of events from a local command post. Instead, when Gascon's show of force established Mesa PD's control of the area and its supervision of events, Arpaio became flustered and retreated to downtown Phoenix, where he angrily denounced Gascon for daring to intervene. That's as close to a "stare down" as a figurative expression can get.

It's also interesting to note the effect that Mesa PD's supervision had on the usual assortment of armed, right-wing protesters and provocateurs. When they saw (or more likely, heard beforehand through the grapevine) that their usual antics were not going to be tolerated and that protesters would be assigned to segregated, carefully monitored areas, they didn't show. Also, as far as overkill is concerned, don't forget that Mesa PD expected on the order of 400 protestors, but when only a handful of anti-immigration activists came that greatly reduced the numbers.

As for changes in Mesa PD's policy, that was dictated by Mesa's deeply conservative Mayor and other city leaders. Ask them why the policy was changed. My theory is that they needed a bone to throw to the reactionaries who called to complain after Gascon opted for public safety, law, and order, instead of the usual circus which constitutes the Joe Show.

As for the graffiti flip-flop, Mesa's initial "so what?" reaction was natural enough, but later they probably decided that if anything ever did happen, Uncle Joe would try to tie it to the "anti-Joe" graffiti and blame Mesa officials for irresponsibility in failing to investigate. So they put political pragmatism ahead of normal procedures and said they would investigate.

Now, when you say that "Mesa has become a haven for illegals and the criminal element", aren't you conflating two separate issues? Because most of the crimes committed in Mesa, as Stern's article clearly shows, aren't committed by illegals. So, if you're really concerned about crime in Mesa -- and you're right to be -- then you ought to be agitating to have limited law-enforcement resources assigned to the biggest problems first, where it can do the most good.

I assume you agree that the biggest problem isn't otherwise law-abiding cooks and tree-trimmers and so forth, whose biggest crime is being here illegally and driving a jalopy with dirty plates, but instead involves drug dealers, burglars and robbers, rapists and other violent criminals -- in short, professional and recidivist criminals committing felonies. No doubt some of those are also illegals, but not most of them, and besides, Joe's "sweeps" aren't targeting that criminal element, they're targeting random brown-skinned persons. If he manages to pull in a few serious criminals with outstanding warrants that way, its by luck only.

So exactly how does Stern's story "fly in the face of the facts"? Which facts do you contest, and why? Contrary to diminishing Phoenix New Times, this story is yet another feather in its cap. And if they have an anti-Joe agenda it's because his behavior warrants it. He's a major public official with a lot of power and he (and his deputies) abuse it on a regular basis, sometimes heinously. You ought to be congratulating New Times for its civic spirit in doggedly exposing this.

D
D

Ya everyone knows Joe is a PR hound but how about the real issues? Our problems aren't from illegals -key word illegal. Lets talk about the word illegal. We may need to remind the government, those upholding the supposed laws and public what the word illegal means. According to the dictionary illegal immigration means a foreigner who either has illegally crossed an international political border, be it by land, water, or air, or a foreigner who has entered a country legally but then overstays his/her visa. This means they have broken the law. Period.

Sorry I just don�t get it. If you break the law you break the law. Not a, well if you broke the law 5 years ago don�t worry about it we will only take action if you break another law. Has everyone gone insane? The entire issue is stupid. The logic by the government is � Oh well we haven�t been enforcing the law so lets change it. Not the same but kind of the same idea- Kids can�t meet the education requirements so lets dummy down the test (another joke).

Kids, our economy is in serious trouble and the entire issue of who and who doesn�t belong here is a joke/distraction to the real issues. We are headed into a majot depression. Have we learned nothing from teh past. We need to refocus on teh real issues jobs, education, health and why we are at war. WAKE UP!

Ray
Ray

If Sheriff Joe is soooooo bad, why does he keep getting relected by such large margins? Perhaps he is doing what the voters want - arresting criminals.

Lazy IT Fuck
Lazy IT Fuck

Emil,

We're on it. Your issue will be ticketed and addressed Monday morning.

Ken Ferrell
Ken Ferrell

I like the New Times. But I am absolutely flabbergasted by the myopic view concerning the Mesa illegal immigrant sweeps.

If Gascon "stared down" Joe, then why did only a week after the sweeps did they revise their policy and now require their officers to determine the resident status of arrestees? Why did Gascon (by his own admission) have far too many police officers to control the small group of protesters during the sweeps? 130 officers for roughly 70-100 protesters. Why did the Mesa PD first come out and say they weren't going to investigate the anti-Joe graffiti and the very next day reverse itself and say that since he was an elected official they would investigate?

Because Sheriff Joe, for all his rhetoric and bravado, is on the right side of this issue. He is in line with the majority of Maricopa voters when he throws out the net to catch illegal immigrants. And he is right when he says Mesa is becoming a haven for illegals and the criminal element. In my 15 years in Phoenix, I have seen Mesa go from a nice bedroom community to a dangerous place I only visit when absolutely necessary. Seems like more than half of the violent news stories in the valley seem to come from Mesa.

And Mesa residents should be mad, the law abiding ones at least. I wouldn't be surprised to see Gascon fired soon if he doesn't start falling in line with public opinion and enforcing the law equally.

I know the New Times has an anti-Joe agenda. I realize that being a politically slanted organization, much like Fox News but leaning a different direction, that probably won't change. But stories like this one that obviously fly in the face of the facts isn't doing any service to either your publication of the anti-Joe forces of the world. It just diminshes your reputation as a news source and makes you look desperate.

Leslie Brabandt
Leslie Brabandt

I am very pleased with our new police chief, George Gascon. He has a very level headed approach to this whole illegal immigrant thing. While I do not believe people should come to this country illegally, I don't believe we can give up our civil rights to solve a problem. Remember, the old saying, when they came for the jews, I said nothing because I was not jew, when they came for the blacks, I said nothing because I was not black, etc. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

God damn the lazy fucks at Phoenix New Times' IT department. You would think that, given the ostensible superiority of capitalism as an economic system, their Webmaster would by now have figured out how to write code for comments software which incorporates the paragraph breaks inserted by the writer, instead of turning multi-paragraph text into ONE BIG RUN-ON SENTENCE. Thanks for turning several hours spent in crafting a carefully reasoned, constructive criticism into an unreadable waste of time.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

There are two things I like about Phoenix New Times: (1) Its irreverent, give 'em hell attitude toward those in authority (when their actions warrant it), and (2) its in-depth treatment of subjects, whether in a single long article or in columns which follow-up on earlier reporting. In other words, good old-fashioned muckraking journalism of the sort which seldom appears in, er, that other local newspaper.

Ray Stern's article contains both elements, and congratulations are in order. Nevertheless, I feel that Mr. Stern's article was blemished by his statistical analysis of crime rates for the illegal immigrant population. I recognize the fact that he seems to be making an effort to provide "balanced" coverage of the issue, but in doing so he employs weak arguments which cede territory without any compelling reason to do so.

For example, in analyzing Chief Gascon's conclusion that illegal immigrants don't commit crimes out of proportion to their percentage of the population, Stern characterizes Gascon's argument as follows: from February to April of this year, just under 8 percent of "suspects" arrested by the Mesa Police Department admitted to being here illegally; and since "the estimated population of illegal immigrants in Arizona is 8 percent" the crime rate for the illegal immigrant population is proportional to their presence here.

I don't know whether the 8 percent figure is accurate, but we can use it as a working premise.

The problem begins when Stern goes on to analyze the data by month. First, he notes that the percentage of admitted illegal immigrants who were arrested rose from 6 percent in February to 10.7 percent in April. No problem so far, but now he concludes that, using Gascon's own argument, "it would make sense that illegals commit crimes slightly out of proportion to their numbers".

Well, let's see. In February, illegals had an arrest rate 2 percentage points BELOW their estimated statewide population percentage. In April it was 2.7 percentage points ABOVE this. It seems to me then, that one is as justified in using the minimum figure as the maximum figure. If we can say, on the basis of these figures, that illegal immigrants are "slightly more likely" to commit crimes than their numbers here suggest, we are also justified in arguing, from the same figures, that they are slightly LESS likely to commit crimes than their numbers would suggest. Why, then, does Mr. Stern insist on using the maximum instead of the minimum? Better yet -- since both conclusions seem unwarranted -- why not take the average for these two months, yielding an arrest rate of 8.35 percent -- again, perfectly in line with Gascon's arguments as represented by Stern.

Mr. Stern insists on the maximum as a more realistic figure for several reasons, given in his article.

The first of these is that "it seems unlikely that the population of undocumented residents in Mesa nearly doubled in three months." So it does. However, it also seems unlikely that the crime rate of illegal immigrants in Mesa nearly doubled from 60 per 1,000 to 107 per 1,000 over three months. Perhaps, like Vulcans, illegal immigrants periodically run amok. No? Then perhaps we should remember that what we are actually discussing is not the crime rate, but the arrest rate. That in turn begs the question of special enforcement actions (e.g., raids on drop-houses and other targeted law-enforcement efforts) taking place more intensively in some months than in others. There is also the issue of ordinary statistical fluctuation over the short term. Sometimes the figures dip below average, and sometimes they rise above. It's a shame that Mr. Stern didn't dig just a little deeper in order to sort these issues out properly.

The second reason Mr. Stern chooses to use the maximum figure in concluding that illegal immigrants commit crimes at a rate slightly higher than their numbers justify, is that "It is also a stretch to think that, in any month this year, illegal immigrants made up nearly half of the 25 percent of Hispanics in Mesa."

I suppose that 10.7 is "nearly half" of 25, if you want to argue loosely. What Stern really means is that he considers it "a stretch" to think that illegal immigrants comprise 10.7 percent of Mesa's total population.

Exactly why that is a "stretch" Mr. Stern doesn't say. In arguing to the contrary, New Times readers should consider two factors: first, the "8 percent" figure may understate matters. According to an article by Michael Kiefer for the Arizona Republic, published on Feb. 25 of this year, "a November 2007 report by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that favors immigration control, estimated there are 579,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona, or 9 percent of the state�s population. The concentration of undocumented immigrants is thought to be higher in metropolitan Phoenix."

That last sentence leads us directly to consideration of the second factor: except for migrant farm laborers and the like, most illegal immigrants settle where most of the jobs are. In Arizona, most of the jobs are in the major cities like Metropolitan Phoenix (including Mesa). No doubt it is also easier to blend in amongst the teeming masses in large cities than in Mayberry where strangers are scrutinized; and certainly illegal immigrants, like other immigrants, tend to collect in areas where they are already established and can support new arrivals, materially and culturally. No doubt whole neighborhoods in Mesa are comprised largely of illegal immigrants.

So, if 8 (or 9) percent of Arizona residents are illegal immigrants, and comparatively few (less than 8 or 9 percent) reside outside the major cities, then MORE than 8 (or 9) percent must reside in major metropolitan areas. If the statewide average is 9 percent, it is scarcely a "stretch" to assume that perhaps 10.7 percent of Mesa residents are illegals.

To be fair to Mr. Stern, he has additional arguments. The third of these involves figures from the MCSO, the Arizona Department of Corrections, and the Phoenix Police Department.

Stern cites DOC figures saying that "14 percent of inmates were foreign nationals as of June 1". However, he also quotes a DOC spokesman as saying that a "notable portion" of these individuals were in the country LEGALLY. Though the spokesman claimed not to know how many, Stern cites "his records" which show that ICE currently plans to deport 6.7 percent of total inmates.

We know, then, only that *at least* 6.7 percent of DOC inmates are illegal immigrants. However, since DOC goes through procedures to determine the residency status of inmates, and MCSO checks this when the prisoners are arrested and jailed (prior to their sentencing to prison), the residue of unknowns must be small. Perhaps there are individuals who have been determined to be here illegally, but whose final deportation orders have yet to be processed by ICE.

At any rate, according to these figures, the percentage of illegals in the custody of DOC could be as small as 7 percent. One should also remember that "foreign nationals" come from places other than Mexico and Central America. There are significant numbers of foreign nationals in the Valley from Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Presumably they also contribute criminal elements from time to time.

Another point to consider here is that illegal immigrants, being generally poor, are more likely to be assigned public defenders rather than private attorneys. As Sarah Fenske points out in her current New Times article, defendents thus represented may be more likely to be convicted and incarcerated. Even so, prison figures of 6.7 percent don't exactly scream "illegal immigrant crime spree" when compared to an illegal immigrant population on the order of 9 percent statewide (and likely significantly higher where major metropolitan concentrations are concerned).

For Phoenix Police Department figures, Mr. Stern cites an "April column" in the Arizona Republic discussing how many suspects booked by PPD into jail turned out to be undocumented.

Due to the Arizona Republic's patented obscuro-ware, I couldn't locate the item in question. Eventually, through a library database, I did find an op-ed piece by PPD Chief Jack Harris dated May 28 of this year, in which Harris states: "Also, of the nearly 46,000 criminals that Phoenix officers booked into the Maricopa County jail last year, more than 6,000 were found to be in the country illegally and holds were placed on them for federal authorities. I appreciate the efforts of the Maricopa County sheriff and his staff at the jail, as the status of these undocumented individuals was identified largely through the screening conducted by jail personnel who have undergone federal immigration training."

That corresponds to the 13 percent figure given by Stern. Note also that these figures were actually provided by MCSO, and that (for reasons Stern notes in his article) this 13 percent of arrestees figure is likely to be far more informative than the 20 percent of jail population figure.

So far, then, the PPD/MCSO figures provide the only evidence in Stern's article for saying that illegal immigrants commit crimes in (even slightly) greater proportion than warranted by their percentage of the population -- though again, their percentage of the statewide population has yet to be reliably determined, and their metropolitan concentrations are thought to be higher still.

In addition, however, there are other factors to be considered. Presumably, in comparing arrest rates between illegal immigrants and legal residents, we would like to exclude arrests which are purely immigration related, since what we are really interested in is general crime rates exclusive of immigration issues. That, however, is not forthcoming in Stern's article.

Furthermore, there are all those cases where arrests were made *because* the suspects admitted to being here illegally. That is, the kind of minor offenses for which legal residents would merely be cited and released, but which in the case of undocumented suspects resulted in their arrest *because* they admitted to being here illegally (and were therefore subject to detention while an ICE hold was placed and processed). These cases should also be excluded from any comparison of arrest rates, for the same reason, since they inflate the statistics of one group for purely technical reasons.

Unfortunately, Mr. Stern failed to go far enough in breaking down and analyzing those figures, but I suspect that if he had, the arrest rates for illegal immigrants (exclusive of misdemeanor charges which would result in citation and release of legal residents under otherwise identical circumstances, and exclusive of purely immigration related charges) would actually be consistently LESS than the estimated population percentage of illegal immigrants in the jurisdictions concerned.

All in all, the best data available thus far on crime rates for illegal immigrants in Arizona, provided by state, county, and local sources, provides no evidence that illegal immigrants commit crimes out of proportion to their numbers. Indeed, so little hard data is available, even as to basic items of information such as illegal immigrant populations in specified areas (such as Mesa), that firm conclusions are impossible. What little reliable data there is suggests that illegal immigrants are no more likely to commit non-immigration related crimes than legal residents -- perhaps less, as the vast majority of them struggle to keep a low profile while working menial jobs in order to send remittances back to their extended families in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

While it is merely anecdotal evidence, I can't help but note my own experiences. I ride the city bus, and the illegals are so afraid of drawing attention to themselves that they often hang back, mutely gesturing for the anglos (like myself) to board before they do, lest someone become irritated by them and scrutinize them. Is this really the behavior of congenital criminals? Or is it the behavior of circumspect individuals trying to pass amongst the general population while they do menial work for low wages?

Payaso Boracho
Payaso Boracho

Todd PonyBoy just wishes he was in the picture too; on his knees and smokin' Gascon's Cuban cigar.

Carlos
Carlos

there are two kinds of :"Illegal Aliens" in Az.The first is someone who:is working, at jobs that no other person will do,pays social security taxes, state taxes, in which he will never collect in benefits,in 99% of instances will stay out of trouble.The second "illegal Allien" is..someone who crosses the border to ,kidnap,kill, and sell drugs.Does not care about our State.Most people (joker's supporter's)will point a finger at the first People while with the other hand buying drugs from the second.The Joker's Supporters will say or point a finger at the Mexican cartels killing each other in Mex. what they don't understand is, they are killing each other in Mex. for the right to sell drugs in this state and accros tha Nation, because that;s where the money is and drug addicts..They are not fighting each other to sell drugs to MexicansWhile most People will point a finger at those standing on corners trying to find a job.they don;t look at the latter.Now the question is: which would you rather have in Az?Joker's supporters would vote for the latter because before they go to a demo to support the Joker... they get highwhich is more important to them?? and to Az??

Carlos
Carlos

Seems to me that the joker Arpaio went against somebody with brains..(Gascon)and an inmigrant to boot and lost.Good for you Gascon..keep it up..show the Joker what a real police officer should be like...

helentroy4
helentroy4

Stallion: call the picture what you will... people who live in glass houses (buyers of books featuring a henna dyed hair, photoshopped smooth Arpaio)... shouldn't throw stones.

Coz
Coz

Let's just be happy Bozo Joke's rain of terror is almost done...

Enough has been stolen, enough people have died, We've been lied to enough, we the tax payers have footed the bill long enough for Bozo Joke Arpaio...Saban in 2008 !

 
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