Phoenix Cops May Have Inflated Kidnapping Stats to Get Federal Bucks

Phoenix police reported 358 kidnapping calls during 2008, and they said a majority of them were linked to drug and human smuggling across the Arizona-Mexico border.

While Phoenix police union leaders raised questions about the veracity of the statistics, the city's top officials — City Manager David Cavazos, Police Chief Jack Harris, and Mayor Phil Gordon — dismissed concerns that kidnapping statistics are inaccurate or intentionally inflated.

A New Times analysis of 264 of the 358 reported kidnappings shows that only about one of every four incidents labeled as kidnappings in 2008 appeared connected to border-related crimes.

Chief Harris agreed to discuss the kidnapping statistics with New Times, but a police spokesman later said that Harris decided to pass on the interview because the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General is auditing kidnapping figures.

There is absolutely no doubt that individuals in Phoenix with ties to drug and human smuggling have been held for ransom, threatened with death, beaten, tortured, and sometimes murdered. There is no doubt that their friends and family members have been extorted for money, cars, weapons, and drugs in exchange for the safe release of loved ones.

New Times detailed the stories of kidnapping victims in "Seized" (August 12). We spoke directly with victims, pored over local and federal court and police records, and spent time with detectives investigating the crimes, rescuing victims, and arresting predators.

Phoenix officials released the kidnapping statistics to media outlets across the country, shared them with federal lawmakers, and cited them in grant applications to depict the rising levels of border-related violence Phoenix police grappled with daily.

However, of the 264 available police reports reviewed by New Times, 64 had discernible ties to human smuggling and kidnapping. This means that Phoenix was dealing with Mexican-style kidnap-for-ransom cases an average of once a week, not daily.

"One a week still indicates a crisis. Those figures didn't need to be inflated," said Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. "Either the police management team was . . . disingenuous or grossly incompetent. We don't think that taxpayers deserve either."

Gordon painted an exaggerated picture for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science in March 2009.

"Almost every night, Phoenix police will get one or more calls" about an immigrant smuggled into the country being held for ransom and tortured. And for each one of the calls, Gordon said, the police department has to divert "as many as 60 officers to find, rescue, and protect those kidnap victims."

The other 200 police reports reviewed by New Times don't support the claims.

On May 13, 2008, a 20-year-old man attacked his ex-girlfriend after she drove to his apartment complex to pick up money he owed her. When she arrived, he got into her truck, and they spoke for a few minutes.

He asked her for a kiss, and she said no. He attacked her, grabbed a fistful of her hair, and forced her and her baby to stay inside the car for more than a half-hour. She eventually escaped and reported the crime to police, who drove to his apartment. He admitted the attack on his ex and was arrested.

The single-day investigation did not require intensive resources and the nonstop involvement of 60 specially trained police officers and detectives, but it is among the 358 kidnapping cases purportedly assigned to specially trained investigators.

Another report, this one dated March 21, 2008, notes an early-morning call from the Blessed Sacrament Church to Phoenix police. A priest told police he received an e-mail from someone threatening to kill him if he didn't pay $15,000. He said he had no idea who sent it.

Cops went to the church, picked up the e-mail and logged the incident in a five-sentence departmental report as "extortion."

The single-page report from 2008 makes no mention of any harm coming to the priest, or of anyone kidnapped. Nevertheless, it ended up on the list of kidnappings in that year.

It shouldn't have, according to an August 2010 memo written by Chief Harris to City Manager Cavazos.

Harris' memo notes that reported kidnapping figures had included only finalized incidents and excluded reports where "the crime was later determined to be unfounded."

He wrote that the kidnapping statistics did not include "information only" incidents — reports with insufficient evidence to determine whether a crime actually had occurred. Kidnappings that were sexually motivated or tied to domestic violence were reported separately, Harris wrote.

Evidently, this wasn't the case.

A list generated and released by the Phoenix Police Department shows that all 358 reports are titled "kidnapping."

Of the 264 New Times reviewed, at least 53 do not have the same label — 24 were labeled "armed robbery" or "extortion," seven were labeled "aggravated assault," and eight were classified as possible violations of federal immigration laws. Labels on 14 others included "suspicious person" and "robbery without a weapon."

There are also at least 59 "information only" reports lumped in with the 358 kidnapping incidents Phoenix law enforcement officials logged in 2008.

One of the reports was created on January 12 of that year after a man at a gas station told police he saw what appeared to be a kidnapping and "coyote situation."

There also are dozens of reports of men trying to snatch young girls or women off the streets, of people getting robbed, of drivers being carjacked at gunpoint, forced into the back seat of their own cars and later released. None included a connection to border-related crimes.

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14 comments
wetmouse
wetmouse

Arpaio = corrupt scumbag. What more do you need to know?

MattGordonMD
MattGordonMD

When cops falsify their own stats and reports, they should be charged with filing false police report and any other applicable state or federal charges.

Coz
Coz

Once again, law enforcement shows everyone it's OK for them to lie, cheat and steal, but only if your law enforcement or a politician, everybody else that does it gets charged with a crime and thrown in jail.

***
***

Well, if Chief Harris signed-off on the report then it's accuracy should be questioned. Or, was it that other guy? Public Safety Director Harris?

Already an inclination there to twist things around, make them appear to be something else.

Sad, sad day when corporate ethical standards are adopted by public safety folks. Lie, cheat, steal = corporate ethics. Did I just put "corporate" and "ethical" in the same sentence? Sorry -- terrible mistake.

haihei
haihei

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XSoldier
XSoldier

Wait wait wait....

This is the same Jack Harris that is an official double dipper?And the same Phil Gordon that hires his girlfriend and pays her out of his campaign funds to lobby the Bahrainis here, all the while knowing he has some sort of a conflict of interest?

Cavazos hasn't done anything yet to draw my ire, but he will....

What a waste of my tax dollars! I sure as hell pay incompetent people.... Just look at the Flaccid Fool, Russell Pearce, Tom Horne (though I give him credit for destroying Candy Andy), and Governor Jan Brewer.....

Guest
Guest

"Chief Harris agreed to discuss the kidnapping statistics with New Times, but a police spokesman later said that Harris decided to pass on the interview because the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General is auditing kidnapping figures."

Okay, let them audit. Good find, PNT and Monica Alonzo! But, let us not jump to conclusions until their finalized numbers have been released-- for which they have not been to date. Ultimately, more real kidnappings happen in AZ than most other states so even if the preliminary numbers were skewed by as much as 80% it's still a major worry.

PD_Veteran
PD_Veteran

Disturbing pattern of mis-management at Phoenix PD. The chief er, public safety manager is holding on till 2011 when he can collect another retirement check and then the next wave of mis-managers will install.

Johnny T.
Johnny T.

A certain Lieutnant who is directly involved in this investigation (can you say suspect?) is now trying to pass blame to a subordinate....the same subordinate who blew the whistle on this to the DOJ. The same subordinate who complained several times to superiors (the Lt included) that the numbers were inaccurate.Yeah, that makes alot of sense... For his efforts he was removed from the unit and persecuted by superiors. Word has it those involved (suspects) in the number game have been told to lawyer up and not cooperate in the investigation. Alot of interesting information about this is on the web site Badphoenixcops.com/blogspot...... include a taped recording of the Lt passing the blame to her subordinate. Seems like the P.D. leadership has alot of integrity issues (can you say corrupt?). Looks like the City manager is already backstepping and getting ready to throw everyone under the bus.

Mikey1969
Mikey1969

So I'm losing count here... How many false claims have we heard from AZ in the last 3 years on the immigration topic? We have "headless bodies in the desert", the "kidnapping capitol of the world", the questionable shootout in the desert, and pretty much ANYTHING that emanates from Arpaio's pie-hole...

Why do public figures even TRY to lie anymore? In the digital age, they have absolutely no hope of getting away with it, and then when they get caught, their pet cause loses credibility, even if it was a legitimate concern to begin with...

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

It's time we citizen's repeal the limitation of liability subsidy granted to owners of corporate stock. These people have proven time and again they're not to be trusted to ensure moral behavior of their corporation's managements. If the owners' of corporations are going to allow their management personnel to lie, cheat and steal because they fear no personal reprecussion, then it's time to repeal the limitation of liability granted to owners of corporate stock by States that charter corporations.

CORPORATIONS are IRRESPONSIBLE!!!

Guest
Guest

Whodathunk, eh?

 
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